Confederate Memorial Day

Confederate Memorial DayAfter the Civil War Southerners wished to honor their war dead and the ladies of the South began a campaign to create a decoration day. In fact the Confederate Decoration Day preceded the General John Logan’s Union Proclamation.

In March of 1866  Mrs. Charles J. (Mary Ann) Williams sent out a letter inviting the ladies in every Southern state to join them in the observance. The letter was sent to all of the principal cities in the South, including Atlanta, Macon, Montgomery, Memphis, Richmond, St. Louis, Alexandria, Columbia, New Orleans, et al.

The letter itself is similar to the proclamation that General John Logan issued when he proclaimed the first Decoration Day:

Columbus, Ga., March 12, 1866.– Messrs. Editors. The ladies are now, and have been for several days, engaged in the sad but pleasant duty of ornamenting and improving that portion of the city cemetery sacred to the memory of our gallant confederate dead, but we feel it is an unfinished work unless a day be set apart annually for its especial attention. We cannot raise monumental shafts and inscribe thereon their many deeds of heroism, but we can keep alive the memory of the debt we owe them by dedicating at least one day in each year to embellishing their humble graves with flowers. Therefore we beg the assistance of the press and the ladies throughout the South to aid us in the effort to set apart a certain day to be observed, from the Potomac to the Rio Grande, and be handed down through time as a religious custom of the South, to wreath the graves of our martyred dead with flowers, and we propose the 26th day of April as the day. Let every city, town and village join in the pleasant duty. Let all alike be remembered, from the heroes of Manassas to those who expired amid the death throes of our hallowed cause. We’ll crown alike the honored resting places of the immortal Stonewall Jackson in Virginia, Johnson at Shiloh, Cleburne in Tennessee, and the host of privates who adorned our ranks. All did their duty, and to all we owe our gratitude. Let the soldiers graves, for that day at least, be the Southern Mecca, to whose shrine her sorrowing women, like pilgrims, may annually bring their grateful hearts and floral offerings. And when we remember the thousands who were buried ‘with their martial cloaks around them,’ without Christian ceremony of interment, we would invoke the aid of the most thrilling eloquence throughout the land to inaugurate this custom, by delivering on the appointed day this year, a eulogy on the unburied dead of our glorious Southern army. They died for their country. Whether their country had or had not the right to demand the sacrifice is no longer a question for discussion. We leave that for nations to decide in the future. That it was demanded-that they fought nobly and fell holy sacrifices upon their country’s alter, and are entitled to their country’s gratitude, none will deny.

The proud banner under which they rallied in defense of the holiest and noblest cause for which heroes fought, or trusting women prayed, has been buried forever. The country for which they suffered and died has now no name or place among the nations of the earth. Legislative enactments may not be made to do honor their memories, but the veriest radical that ever traced his genealogy back to the dock of the May Flower could not refuse us the simple privilege of paying honor to those who died defending the life, honor and happiness of the Southern women.

The original date for the Confederate Decoration Day was April 26, the first anniversary of Confederate General Johnston’s final surrender to Union General Sherman at Bennett Place, NC. For many in the South, that marked the official end of the Civil War.

Over the years the dates have changed with several states, like Virginia and Arkansas, no longer celebrating the day. Virginia has Lee-Jackson Day.

Florida celebrates on April 26th. If the 26th falls on a Sunday, then its celebrated on the following Monday.

Georgia and Mississippi celebrate on the last Monday in April.

Kentucky, Louisiana and Tennessee celebrate on Jefferson Davis’ birthday, June 3rd.

North and South Carolina celebrate on May 10th to commemorate the death of Confederate General Thomas Jonathan “Stonewall” Jackson in 1863 and the capture of Confederate President Jefferson Davis in 1865.

Texas celebrates Confederate Heroes Day on January 19th. In 1973, the Texas legislature combined the previously official state holidays of Robert E. Lee’s and Jefferson Davis’ birthdays into a single “Confederate Heroes Day” to honor all who had served the Southern Cause. In some years, this date may coincide with Martin Luther King, Jr. Day. State offices are partially staffed in recognition of this day.

Lee–Jackson Day is a holiday celebrated in the Commonwealth of Virginia in the U.S., for the birthdays of Robert E. Lee and Thomas J. “Stonewall” Jackson. Lee–Jackson Day is currently observed on the Friday before Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, which is the third Monday in January. Typical events include a wreath-laying ceremony with military honors, a Civil War themed parade, symposia, and a gala ball. State offices are closed for both holidays.

The state of Arkansas has a state holiday honoring Robert E. Lee.

It should be noted that all of the states and territories of the United States celebrate Memorial Day on the last Monday in May.






Memorial Day

I wrote this post in 2012 for Memorial Day. It is well worth reprinting in memory of all those who fought and died to make the United States the free nation that it is today.

When I was younger, Memorial Day was sometimes referred to as Decoration Day. It was the day that was set aside by a grateful nation to decorate the graves of our honored dead. It wasn’t meant for sales, outdoor barbecues and games.

The original Decoration Day was first proclaimed by General John Logan, the first national commander of the Grand Army of the Republic, in General Order #11 on May 5, 1868. The United States was barely three years past the end of the Civil War.

Some 625,000 Americans, North and South, had perished on battlefields and in John A. Loganhospitals. Untold numbers had been crippled. Not a single town across this great land had been spared.

Mothers had lost sons; sometimes as many as five in the case of Mrs. Lydia Bixby of Boston, Massachusetts. Abraham Lincoln’s letter to her is featured in the movie “Saving Private Ryan”. (It now appears that she only lost two of her five sons.) The Union veterans were looking for a dignified way to honor their fallen comrades. Logan gave them that way.


General Order No. 11

Headquarters, Grand Army of the Republic Washington, D.C., May 5, 1868

I. The 30th day of May, 1868, is designated for the purpose of strewing with flowers or otherwise decorating the graves of comrades who died in defense of their country during the late rebellion, and whose bodies now lie in almost every city, village, and hamlet churchyard in the land. In this observance no form or ceremony is prescribed, but posts and comrades will in their own way arrange such fitting services and testimonials of respect as circumstances may permit.

We are organized, comrades, as our regulations tell us, for the purpose, among other things, “of preserving and strengthening those kind and fraternal feelings which have bound together the soldiers, sailors, and marines who united to suppress the late rebellion.” What can aid more to assure this result than by cherishing tenderly the memory of our heroic dead, who made their breasts a barricade between our country and its foe? Their soldier lives were the reveille of freedom to a race in chains, and their death a tattoo of rebellious tyranny in arms. We should guard their graves with sacred vigilance. All that the consecrated wealth and taste of the Nation can add to their adornment and security is but a fitting tribute to the memory of her slain defenders. Let no wanton foot tread rudely on such hallowed grounds. Let pleasant paths invite the coming and going of reverent visitors and fond mourners. Let no vandalism or avarice or neglect, no ravages of time, testify to the present or to the coming generations that we have forgotten, as a people, the cost of free and undivided republic.

If other eyes grow dull and other hands slack, and other hearts cold in the solemn trust, ours shall keep it well as long as the light and warmth of life remain in us.

Let us, then, at the time appointed, gather around their sacred remains and garland the passionless mounds above them with choicest flowers of springtime; let us raise above them the dear old flag they saved from dishonor; let us in this solemn presence renew our pledges to aid and assist those whom they have left among us as sacred charges upon the Nation’s gratitude, ‑‑ the soldier’s and sailor’s widow and orphan.

II. It is the purpose of the Commander‑in‑Chief to inaugurate this observance with the hope it will be kept up from year to year, while a survivor of the war remains to honor the memory of his departed comrades. He earnestly desires the public press to call attention to this Order, and lend its friendly aid in bringing it to the notice of comrades in all parts of the country in time for simultaneous compliance therewith.

III. Department commanders will use every effort to make this order effective.

By command of: JOHN A. LOGAN, Commander-in-Chief .

N. P. CHIPMAN, Adjutant-General.

The Price of FreedomUntil 1882 the day was called Decoration Day. New York was the first state to make it a legal holiday. By 1890 all of the northern states had followed suit. The southern states had their own Memorial Day. The National Holiday Act of 1971 changed the whole feel of Memorial Day from a one-day commemoration of the nation’s war dead to a three-day holiday weekend.

“There are no better teachers for those who come after us than the silent monuments on the battlefields, marking the places where men died for a principle they believed right, whether they wore the blue or the gray uniform.”
Major Wells Sponable, 34th New York Monument dedication at the Antietam battlefield.

So when you’re flipping that burger, eating that hot dog or cruising the mall, please have a thought for those who lie beneath the ground that they defended with their lives. Remember that the price of freedom has been very high, paid for in blood.



After the War: The Lees

Custis LeeRobert E. Lee had three sons and a nephew serve in the Confederate Army. Three of them attained the rank of major general and all of them had interesting postbellum lives.

George Washington Custis Lee was born in 1832 at Fort Monroe, Virginia. He was familiarly known as Custis to his family and friends. Custis entered West Point at the age of seventeen and attended the national military academy from 1850 until his graduation in 1854.

During his first year, Lee excelled both academically and militarily. Toward the end of his first year he was almost expelled, when alcohol was found in his room. He claimed that he did not put it there, and got away with only minor punishments. He did well his second year also. At the beginning of his third year, his father became the Superintendent of West Point. He graduated first in his class of forty-six, in 1854.

Lee was commissioned in the Corps of Engineers as a brevet Second Lieutenant. He served primarily in California, Georgia, and Florida during his time in the U.S. Army. In 1855, he was promoted to Second Lieutenant in the Regular Army. In 1859, Lee was commissioned a full First Lieutenant. Lee was stationed in Washington D. C., during the period of secession and the firing on Fort Sumter.

He then resigned from the U.S. Army, in the spring of 1861 after Virginia seceded from the Union. He resigned about two weeks after his father had done the same. Lee then offered his services to the Virginia state forces.

Lee served in the Virginia state forces, until July 1861. At that time he was given a commission as a Captain in the Confederate Army. During the next few months, Lee worked in the Confederate engineers corps. He spent his time constructing fortifications for the new capital city, Richmond.

At the end of August 1861, Lee was offered and accepted the position of aide-de-camp to Confederate President Jefferson Davis. He was then promoted to the rank of Colonel. Lee served in his position for the next three years of the war. He was often sent on missions to assess the military, and would then return to report to Davis.

By 1864 he had commanded troops in the defenses of the capital city and was promoted to Major General. After the fall of Petersburg he commanded troops in the retreat. He was captured at Sayler’s Creek three days before his father’s surrender at Appomattox.

In late 1865, Lee was hired as a professor at the Virginia Military Institute. Lee held this position until the death of his father. Between 1871 and 1897, Lee served as the ninth president of Washington and Lee University. In 1897, Lee resigned as president of Washington and Lee University. He then moved to the home of his late brother, Major General William Henry Fitzhugh Lee, Ravensworth Mansion. Lee died on February 18, 1913 in Alexandria, Virginia, and is buried in the Lee Chapel, near his family members.

William Henry Fitzhugh Lee was born in 1837 at Arlington House in Arlington, Virginia. He attended Harvard University Rooney Leeand in 1857 entered the U.S. Army as a second lieutenant. He participated in the Utah War against the Mormons while serving in the 6th U.S. Infantry. In 1859, he resigned from the U.S. Army to operate his White House Plantation, on the south shore of the Pamunkey River, in New Kent County, Virginia.

Lee, known as Rooney to his family and friends, spent the entire war in the Calvary. He primarily served in the command of J.E.B. Stuart. He was wounded at Brandy Station and captured by Union forces.

He was shipped to New York State, where he was held as a prisoner of war until returned to the Confederate Army on February 25, 1864, in exchange for Union Brig. Gen. Neal S. Dow. In April, Lee was promoted to major general and commanded a division in the Cavalry Corps during the breakout from Petersburg and the retreat of his father’s army in the Appomattox Campaign.

By the end of the war, Rooney Lee had risen to second-in-command of the Confederate cavalry. He surrendered along with his father at Appomattox Court House.

After the surrender he returned to White House Plantation. After their mother died in 1873, Rooney inherited Ravensworth Plantation, the old Fitzhugh family property in Fairfax County. He moved there with his family from White House.

In 1875 Rooney was elected to the Virginia Senate, serving until 1878. He was elected as a Democrat to the United States House of Representatives in 1887. He served in the House until his death at Ravensworth in 1891. He is interred in the Lee Chapel at Washington and Lee University in Lexington, Virginia, with his parents and siblings.

Rob LeeRobert Edward “Rob” Lee, Jr., known as Rob, was born in 1843. Rob never envisioned a military career and in 1860 enrolled at the University of Virginia. To his mother’s dismay he joined the Rockbridge Artillery as a private.

After the Battle of Sharpsburg, he was promoted to the rank of Captain and assigned as aide to his older brother Custis. The latter was a major general and aide-de-camp to the Confederate President Jefferson Davis, and involved in defending Richmond, Virginia.

After the war, Rob lived and farmed Romancoke Plantation on the north bank of the Pamunkey River in King William County, which he inherited from his maternal grandfather George Washington Parke Custis.

Rob also became a writer, gathering his memories of his family and life in Recollections and Letters of General Robert E. Lee (1904). The first-hand account provides a valuable source of information on day-to-day life at Arlington House during his youth, and includes many items of interest regarding his father’s entire life. However, some are now offended by racial views expressed therein.

Robert E. Lee, Jr. died in 1914. He was interred with his parents and siblings in the Lee Chapel in Lexington, Virginia, where his father and brother Custis each had served as a president of the college now known as Washington and Lee University.

Finally, there is their cousin Fitzhugh Lee who was born in 1835. He was the son of Sydney Smith Lee who had a distinguished career in the United States Navy. Fitz Lee graduated from the United States Military Academy in 1856 and was Fitzhugh Leecommissioned as a cavalry officer in the regiment that was commanded by Albert Sidney Johnston with his uncle Robert E. Lee as second-in-command.

Lee resigned his position at West Point when Virginia seceded. He was commissioned as a lieutenant in the cavalry and as a staff officer. However, he rose rapidly and by July 1862 was a brigadier general. He served primarily under the command of J.E.B. Stuart. After the Battle of Gettysburg Stuart singled him out as “one of the finest cavalry leaders on the continent, and richly [entitled] to promotion”. He was soon promoted to major general.

After Stuart’s death at Yellow Tavern Wade Hampton was promoted to command the Confederate cavalry. Lee remained in command of his division. When Hampton was sent to North Carolina to assist General Joseph E. Johnston Fitz Lee succeeded to command. He personally led the last cavalry charge on April 9th at Farmville, Virginia.

After the war, Lee devoted himself to farming in Stafford County, Virginia, and was conspicuous in his efforts to reconcile the Southern people to the issue of the war, which he regarded as a final settlement of the questions at issue. In 1885, he was a member of the board of visitors of West Point. From 1886 to 1890 he was governor of Virginia having defeated Republican John Sergeant Wise with 52.77% of the vote.

In April 1896, Lee was appointed consul-general at Havana by President Cleveland, with duties of a diplomatic and military character added to the usual consular business. In this post (in which he was retained by President William McKinley until 1898) he was from the first called upon to deal with a situation of great difficulty, which culminated with the destruction of the warship USS Maine. Upon the declaration of war between Spain and the United States, he re-entered the army.

He was one of three ex-Confederate general officers who were made major generals of United States Volunteers (the others being Joseph Wheeler and Thomas L. Rosser). Fitzhugh Lee commanded the 7th Army Corps, but took no part in the actual operations in Cuba. He was military governor of Havana and Pinar del Río in 1899, subsequently commanded the Department of the Missouri, and retired in 1901 as a brigadier general, U.S. Army, having come full circle.

Lee died in Washington, D.C., and is buried in Hollywood Cemetery, Richmond, Virginia.

The Lee family with five members in the Confederate Army distinguished themselves as true sons of Virginia and defenders of their state. They served Virginia in a variety of positions both in war and peace.


After the War: James Longstreet

James Longstreet post bellumLieutenant General James Longstreet of South Carolina was at the very top of the Army of Northern Virginia commanding the First Corps. General Robert E. Lee called him his ‘Old Warhorse’.

Moxley Sorrel, one of his staff officers, wrote of Longstreet’s confidence and calmness in battle: “He was like a rock in steadiness when sometimes in battle the world seemed flying to pieces.” Gen. Lee said, “Longstreet was the staff in my right hand.” He had been established as Lee’s principal lieutenant.

At the Seven Days Battles he was in operational command of nearly half of the army, 15 brigades. Longstreet was an aggressive commander especially at Gaines’ Mill and Glendale. His command eventually became the First Corps of the Army of Northern Virginia.

Longstreet’s reputation suffered unfairly from the disastrous attack on the Union center on the third day at Gettysburg when the misnamed Pickett’s Charge had nearly wrecked the Confederate Army. After the war many of the ‘Lost Cause’ proponents blamed Longstreet rather than the man who ordered the attack, Robert E. Lee.

After the war Longstreet and his family settled in New Orleans where he entered a partnership in the cotton brokerage business and became the president of the newly created Great Southern and Western Fire, Marine and Accident Insurance Company. In 1870, he was named president of the newly organized New Orleans and Northeastern Railroad.

He applied for a pardon from President Andrew Johnson, endorsed by his friend, Ulysses S. Grant. Johnson refused, however, telling Longstreet in a meeting: “There are three persons of the South who can never receive amnesty: Mr. Davis, General Lee, and yourself. You have given the Union cause too much trouble.” Regardless of such opposition the United States Congress restored his rights of citizenship in June 1868.

James Longstreet was the only senior Confederate officer to join the Republican Party during Reconstruction. He endorsed Grant for president in 1868, attended his inauguration ceremonies, and six days later received an appointment as surveyor of customs in New Orleans. For these acts he lost favor with many Southerners. His old friend Harvey Hill wrote to a newspaper: “Our scalawag is the local leper of the community.”

Longstreet and Grant had been friends since their days at West Point. Grant married Longstreet’s fourth cousin, Julia Dent, and Longstreet was in attendance although his role is disputed by historians. The two men would remain friends through the war and the peace that followed.

The Republican governor of Louisiana appointed Longstreet the adjutant general of the state militia and by 1872 he became a major general in command of all militia and state police forces within New Orleans. During protests of election irregularities in 1874, referred to as the Battle of Liberty Place, an armed force of 8,400 White League members advanced on the State House.

Longstreet commanded a force of 3,600 Metropolitan Police, city policemen, and African-American militia troops, armed with two Gatling guns and a battery of artillery. He rode to meet the protesters but was pulled from his horse, shot by a spent bullet, and taken prisoner. The White League charged, causing many of Longstreet’s men to flee or surrender. Federal troops were required to restore order. Longstreet’s use of black troops during the disturbances increased the denunciations by anti-Reconstructionists.

The Longstreet family left New Orleans and moved to Gainesville, Georgia over concerns for their health and safety. He applied for various jobs through the Rutherford B. Hayes administration and was briefly considered for Secretary of the Navy. He served briefly as deputy collector of internal revenue and as postmaster of Gainesville.

In 1880 Hayes appointed Longstreet as his ambassador to the Ottoman Empire, and later he served from 1897 to 1904, under Presidents William McKinley and Theodore Roosevelt, as U.S. Commissioner of Railroads, succeeding Wade Hampton III.

Longstreet’s wife Louise died in December of 1889. He remarried at the age of 76 in 1897, in a ceremony at the governor’s mansion in Atlanta, to Helen Dortch, age 34. Although Longstreet’s children reacted poorly to the marriage, Helen became a devoted wife and avid supporter of his legacy after his death. She outlived him by 58 years, dying in 1962.

After suffering criticism of his war record from other Confederates for decades, Longstreet refuted most of their arguments in his memoirs entitled From Manassas to Appomattox, a labor of five years that was published in 1896.

His final years were marked by poor health and partial deafness. In 1902 he suffered from severe rheumatism and was unable to stand for more than a few minutes at a time. His weight diminished from 200 to 135 pounds by January 1903. Cancer developed in his right eye, and in December he had X-ray therapy in Chicago to treat it. 

He contracted pneumonia and died in Gainesville, six days before his 83rd birthday. Longstreet’s remains are buried in Alta Vista Cemetery. He outlived most of his detractors, and was one of only a few general officers from the Civil War to live into the 20th century.

Longstreet’s reputation suffered greatly from the attacks of the believers in the Lost Cause mythology. It should be noted that the attacks began two years of the death of General Lee. They centered on Longstreet’s actions at Gettysburg. Jubal Early in a speech at Washington College falsely accused Longstreet of attacking late on the second day and of being responsible for the debacle on the third.

The following year William N. Pendleton, Lee’s artillery chief, claimed in the same venue that Longstreet disobeyed an explicit order to attack at sunrise on July 2. Both of these allegations were fabrications. However, Longstreet failed to challenge these lies publicly until 1875. That failure further damaged his reputation.

Most of the criticisms and fabrication lasted into the 20th century with Douglas Southall Freeman including them in his famous biography of Robert E. Lee. Clifford Dowdey, a Virginia newspaperman and novelist, was noted for his severe criticism of Longstreet in the 1950s and 1960s. (Dowdey was quite a prolific author and many of his works can be found on Amazon.com.)

The publication of Michael Shaara’s novel The Killer Angels in 1974, based in part on Longstreet’s memoirs, followed by its 1993 film adaptation, Gettysburg, have been credited with helping to restore Longstreet’s reputation as a general and to dramatically raise his public visibility. The 1982 work by Thomas L. Connolly and Barbara L. Bellows, God and General Longstreet, provided a “further upgrading of Longstreet through an attack on Lee, the Lost Cause, and the Virginia revisionists.”

Jeffry D. Wert wrote that “Longstreet … was the finest corps commander in the Army of Northern Virginia; in fact, he was arguably the best corps commander in the conflict on either side.”  Richard L. DiNardo wrote “Even Longstreet’s most virulent critics have conceded that he put together the best staff employed by any commander, and that his de facto chief of staff,Lieutenant Colonel G. Moxley Sorrel, was the best staff officer in the Confederacy.”

DiNardo cited the effective way in which Longstreet delegated responsibilities for control of battlefield movements to his staff and how they were able to communicate with him more effectively during battles than the staffs of other Confederate generals during the war.

After Longstreet’s death, his second wife Helen privately published Lee and Longstreet at High Tide in his defense, in which she stated “the South was seditiously taught to believe that the Federal Victory was wholly the fortuitous outcome of the culpable disobedience of General Longstreet.” (This book is also available on Amazon.com.)



After the War: Edwin M. Stanton

Edwin McMasters Stanton Secretary of WarEdwin M. Stanton was Lincoln’s second Secretary of War. He succeeded Simon Cameron who was inept at best, corrupt at worst on January 15, 1862. Stanton proved to be neither of those two things.

Stanton was very efficient at administering the huge War Department that purchasing everything from horses to guns to foodstuffs. But Stanton devoted considerable energy to the prosecution of Union officers whom he suspected of having traitorous sympathies for the South, the most notable of whom was Maj. Gen. Fitz John Porter.

On August 8, 1862, Stanton issued an order to “arrest and imprison any person or persons who may be engaged, by act, speech or writing, in discouraging volunteer enlistments, or in any way giving aid and comfort to the enemy, or in any other disloyal practice against the United States”.

Stanton was at the room in the Petersen House when Lincoln died and uttered the famous phrase “Now he belongs to the ages” (or possibly “angels”), and lamented, “There lies the most perfect ruler of men the world has ever seen.”

He then took charge of the hunt for the assassin, John Wilkes Booth, and his accomplices. The prosecutions were not handled by the civil courts, but by a military tribunal, and therefore under Stanton’s tutelage. Stanton has subsequently been accused of witness tampering, most notably of Louis J. Weichmann, and of other activities that skewed the outcome of the trials.

Stanton continued as Secretary of War under President Andrew Johnson. He strongly disagreed with Johnson’s plan to readmit the seceded states to the Union without guarantees of civil rights for freed slaves. The two clashed over implementation of Reconstruction policy, and Johnson dismissed Stanton and named Ulysses S. Grant as his replacement.

However, his dismissal was overruled by the Senate. Stanton barricaded himself in his office when Johnson tried again to dismiss him, this time appointing Adjutant General Lorenzo Thomas as his successor.

Radical Republicans initiated impeachment proceedings against Johnson on the grounds that Johnson’s removal of Stanton without Senate approval violated the Tenure of Office Act. Stanton played a central role in the attempt to impeach President Andrew Johnson.

In a dramatic trial in the House Johnson was convicted of eleven articles of impeachment detailing his “high crimes and misdemeanors“, in accordance with Article Two of the United States Constitution on February 24, 1868. He avoided removal from office by a single vote in the Senate on May 16, 1868.

Stanton resigned from office after the Senate vote and returned to the practice of law. He campaigned heavily for Ulysses S. Grant in 1868, and Grant rewarded him with an appointment to the U.S. Supreme Court in December 1869. The Senate confirmed Stanton on December 19. However, Stanton (whose health had worsened during the war), suffered a severe asthma attack on December 23, and died at 4:00 a.m. on December 24, 1869, in Washington, D.C.

Stanton was buried at Oak Hill Cemetery in Washington. Because Stanton died before taking the oath of office, he is not considered to have officially joined the Supreme Court.

Stanton had taken a large pay cut to serve as Secretary of War, and his finances were in bad shape when he died. Congress voted his wife a sum the equivalent of one year’s pension for a U.S. Supreme Court justice, since her late husband had been confirmed to the Court but not sworn in. Friends also collected a generous fund to care for her and her family.

Edwin Stanton was at the center of three monumental events in the life of the United States: the American Civil War, the assassination of Abraham Lincoln and the impeachment of Andrew Johnson. As such, he was a pivotal individual in American history.



After the War: Jefferson Davis

Jefferson Davis with the Confederate FlagJefferson Davis was the first, last and only President of the Confederate States. In his lifetime Jefferson Davis served the United States as a soldier during the Mexican War, a Congressman and Senator from Mississippi and as Secretary of War.

When Ulysses Grant’s troops captured Richmond on April 3, 1865 Davis fled by train to Danville where he lived in the home of Major William T. Sutherlin. By April 12th Davis had been informed of the surrender of the Army of Northern Virginia in a letter from Robert E. Lee. He issued his last official proclamation as president of the Confederacy, and then went south to Greensboro, North Carolina.

After Lee’s surrender, a public meeting was held in Shreveport, Louisiana, at which many speakers supported continuation of the war. Plans were developed for the Davis government to flee to Havana, Cuba. There, the leaders would regroup and head to the Confederate-controlled Trans-Mississippi area by way of the Rio Grande. None of these plans came to fruition.

On April 14th Abraham Lincoln was assassinated, an act that Davis expressed regret for. Davis felt that Lincoln would have been less harsh than his successor, Andrew Johnson. Johnson issued a $100,000 reward for the capture of Davis and accused him of helping to plan the assassination. As the Confederate military structure fell into disarray, the search for Davis by Union forces intensified.

President Davis met with his Confederate Cabinet for the last time on May 5, 1865, in Washington, Georgia, and officially dissolved the Confederate government. The meeting took place at the Heard house, the Georgia Branch Bank Building, with 14 officials present. Along with their hand-picked escort led by Given Campbell, Davis and his wife were captured by Union forces on May 10 at Irwinville in Irwin County, Georgia.

Davis was taken to Fortress Monroe on the Virginia Peninsula and began his imprisonment on May 19th. Initially he was lodged in a casemate. Irons were riveted to his ankles at the order of General Nelson Miles who was in charge of the fort.

Davis was allowed no visitors, and no books except the Bible. His health began to suffer, and the attending physician warned that the prisoner’s life was in danger, but this treatment continued for some months until late autumn when he was finally given better quarters. General Miles was transferred in mid-1866, and Davis’ treatment continued to improve.

Varina Davis and their daughter Winnie joined the former Confederate President and eventually they were given an apartment in officer’s quarters. During his imprisonment Davis was indicted for treason but there was no appetite for trials. It was thought that they wouldn’t succeed and they would impede reconciliation.

After two years of imprisonment, Davis was released on bail of $100,000, which was posted by prominent citizens including Horace Greeley, Cornelius Vanderbilt and Gerrit Smith. (Smith was a former member of the Secret Six who had supported abolitionist John Brown.) Davis went to Montreal, Canada to join his family which had fled there earlier, and lived in Lennoxville, Quebec until 1868 also visiting Cuba, and Europe in search of work. Davis remained under indictment until he was released from all liability by the presidential amnesty issued by Johnson on December 25, 1868.

In 1869 Davis became president of the Carolina Life Insurance Company in Memphis, Tennessee, where he resided at the Peabody Hotel. Elected to the U.S. Senate again, he was refused the office in 1875, having been barred from Federal office by Section Three of the Fourteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution. He turned down the opportunity to become the first president of the Agriculture and Mechanical College of Texas (now Texas A&M University).

In 1878 Sarah Anne Ellis Dorsey made over her will, leaving Beauvoir and her financial assets of $50,000 (equivalent to $1,222,000 in 2014) to Jefferson Davis and, in the case of his death, to his only surviving child, Winnie Davis. Dorsey died in 1879, by which time both the Davises and Winnie were living at Beauvoir. Over the next two years, Davis completed The Rise and Fall of the Confederate Government

In 1881 Davis gained legal title to his plantation Brierfield. It had been given to him by his brother Joseph but he never had legal title.

In 1886 and 1887 Davis made a tour of the South and spoke at numerous meetings. He attended Lost Cause ceremonies, where large crowds showered him with affection and local leaders presented emotional speeches honoring his sacrifices to the would-be nation. Such events helped the South come to terms with their defeat and continued for decades after the war.

The Meriden Daily Journal stated that Davis, at a reception held in New Orleans in May 1887, urged southerners to be loyal to the nation. He said, “United you are now, and if the Union is ever to be broken, let the other side break it.”

Davis stated that men in the Confederacy had successfully fought for their own rights with inferior numbers during the Civil War and that the northern historians ignored this view. Davis firmly believed that Confederate secession was constitutional. The former Confederate president was optimistic concerning American prosperity and the next generation.

Davis completed A Short History of the Confederate States of America in October 1889. On a trip to New Orleans in Mid-November 1889 he contracted acute bronchitis complicated by malaria. He seemed to be recovering but in early-December he took a turn for the worse. Davis lost consciousness on the evening of December 5 and died at age 81 at 12:45 a.m. on Friday, December 6, 1889, in the presence of several friends and with his hand in Varina’s.

His funeral was one of the largest in the South. Davis was first entombed at the Army of Northern Virginia tomb at Metairie Cemetery in New Orleans. In 1893, Mrs. Davis decided to have his remains reinterred at Hollywood Cemetery in Richmond.



After the War: Robert E. Lee

Robert E. Lee in May 1869For Robert E. Lee the American Civil War ended on April 9, 1865 when he surrendered the Confederate Army of Northern Virginia to Ulysses S. Grant at Appomattox. He told his staff “… then there is nothing left me but to go and see General Grant, and I would rather die a thousand deaths…”.

For Robert E. Lee the surrender of his army was perhaps the bitterest moment in a life replete with honors and victories. Leaving the McLean House he told his men ”Boys, I have done the best I could for you. Go home now. And if you make as good citizens as you have soldiers, you will do well”. When he returned to his camp Lee went into his tent and was not seen for several hours.

The day after his surrender, Lee issued this Farewell Address to his army.

Headquarters, Army of Northern Virginia, 10th April 1865.

General Order
No. 9

After four years of arduous service marked by unsurpassed courage and fortitude, the Army of Northern Virginia has been compelled to yield to overwhelming numbers and resources.

I need not tell the survivors of so many hard fought battles, who have remained steadfast to the last, that I have consented to the result from no distrust of them.

But feeling that valour and devotion could accomplish nothing that could compensate for the loss that must have attended the continuance of the contest, I have determined to avoid the useless sacrifice of those whose past services have endeared them to their countrymen.

By the terms of the agreement, officers and men can return to their homes and remain until exchanged. You will take with you the satisfaction that proceeds from the consciousness of duty faithfully performed, and I earnestly pray that a merciful God will extend to you his blessing and protection.

With an unceasing admiration of your constancy and devotion to your Country, and a grateful remembrance of your kind and generous consideration for myself, I bid you an affectionate farewell.

— R. E. Lee, General, General Order No. 9

Lee personally oversaw the writing and editing of General Order No. 9. He signed all of the copies that were circulated throughout the Army of Northern Virginia.

Robert E. Lee then returned to Richmond on horseback to the house that he had rented for his family. He insisted that the war was over and energetically campaigned for inter-sectional reconciliation. “So far from engaging in a war to perpetuate slavery, I am rejoiced that slavery is abolished. I believe it will be greatly for the interests of the South.”

After the end of the war Robert E. Lee was neither arrested nor punished. However, he did lose the right to vote as well as some property. His family had lost the Custis-Lee Mansion in what is now Arlington National Cemetery. They were compensated for the property in 1883.

He supported President Andrew Johnson’s program of Reconstruction.  He joined with Democrats in opposing the Radical Republicans who demanded punitive measures against the South, distrusted its commitment to the abolition of slavery and, indeed, distrusted the region’s loyalty to the United States.

Lee generally supported civil rights for all, as well as a system of free public schools for blacks, but forthrightly opposed allowing blacks to vote. “My own opinion is that, at this time, they [black Southerners] cannot vote intelligently, and that giving them the [vote] would lead to a great deal of demagogism, and lead to embarrassments in various ways,” Lee stated.

Emory Thomas says Lee had become a suffering Christ-like icon for ex-Confederates. President Grant invited him to the White House in 1869, and he went. Nationally he became an icon of reconciliation between the North and South, and the reintegration of former Confederates into the national fabric.

The Lees resided in Richmond until June 1865 when he accepted the presidency of Washington College (now Washington and Lee University) in Lexington, Virginia, and served from October 1865 until his death.

The trustees used Lee’s famous name and reputation to raise money in large scale fund-raising appeals. Lee transformed Washington College into a leading Southern college expanding its offerings significantly and added programs in commerce, journalism, and integrated the Lexington Law School.

Lee was well liked by the students, which enabled him to announce an “honor system” like West Point’s, explaining “We have but one rule here, and it is that every student be a gentleman.” To speed up national reconciliation Lee recruited students from the North and made certain they were well treated on campus and in town.

Lee was highly respected by the students and faculty. A typical account by a professor there states that “the students fairly worshipped him, and deeply dreaded his displeasure; yet so kind, affable, and gentle was he toward them that all loved to approach him. … No student would have dared to violate General Lee’s expressed wish or appeal; if he had done so, the students themselves would have driven him from the college.”

Robert E. Lee was not pardoned, nor was his citizenship restored. On January 30, 1975, Senate Joint Resolution 23, A joint resolution to restore posthumously full rights of citizenship to General R. E. Lee was introduced into the Senate by Senator Harry F. Byrd, Jr. (I-VA), the result of a five-year campaign to accomplish this. The resolution, which enacted Public Law 94-67, was passed, and the bill was signed by President Gerald Ford on September 5, 1975.

On September 28, 1870, Lee suffered a stroke. He died two weeks later, shortly after 9 a.m. on October 12, 1870, in Lexington, Virginia, from the effects of pneumonia. According to one account, his last words on the day of his death, were “Tell Hill he must come up. Strike the tent”, but this is debatable because of conflicting accounts and because Lee’s stroke had resulted in aphasia, possibly rendering him unable to speak.

Robert E. Lee is considered one of the great tacticians of the Civil War. At Chancellorsville he divided his army and achieved a great victory against a Union Army twice the size of his.

According to my notion of military history there is as much instruction both in strategy and in tactics to be gleaned from General Lee’s operations of 1862 as there is to be found in Napoleon’s campaigns of 1796.

—Field Marshal Garnet Wolseley





After the War: Ulysses S. Grant

Ulysses S. GrantMany of the men who fought on both sides during the Civil War became prominent politicians and businessmen after the war. In this series we are going to take a look at them. We’ll start with the Union General-in-Chief, Ulysses S. Grant.

At the end of the war Grant was approaching 43 years old, not very old for a man of his high position, even in the 19th century. He continued as the Commanding General of the United States Army until March 4, 1869 when he was succeeded by his good friend William Tecumseh Sherman. Sherman held the position until November 1, 1883.

Grant stepped down because he was elected the 18th President of the United States. Grant won the election by 300,000 votes out of 5,716,082 votes cast, receiving an electoral college landslide, of 214 votes to Seymour’s 80. Grant, at the age of 46 was (at the time) the youngest president ever elected. He held that position for two terms leaving in 1877.

Grant stabilized the nation during the turbulent Reconstruction period, prosecuted the Ku Klux Klan, and enforced civil and voting rights laws using the army and the Department of Justice.

He used the army to build the Republican Party in the South, based on black voters, Northern newcomers (“carpetbaggers”), and native Southern white supporters (“scalawags”). After the disenfranchisement of some former Confederates, Republicans gained majorities and African Americans were elected to Congress and high state offices.

In his second term, the Republican coalitions in the South splintered and were defeated one by one as redeemers (conservative whites) regained control using coercion and violence.

Grant’s Indian peace policy initially reduced frontier violence, but is best known for the Great Sioux War of 1876, where George Custer and his regiment were killed at the Battle of the Little Bighorn.

Throughout his presidency, Grant faced congressional investigations into corruption in executive agencies, including bribery charges against two of his Cabinet members. Grant’s administration implemented a gold standard and sought to strengthen the dollar.

In foreign policy, Grant sought to increase American trade and influence, while remaining at peace with the world. His administration successfully resolved the Alabama Claims with Great Britain, ending wartime tensions. Grant avoided war with Spain over the Virginius Affair, but Congress rejected his attempted annexation of the Dominican Republic. His response to the Panic of 1873 gave some financial relief to New York banking houses, but was ineffective in halting the five-year economic depression that produced high unemployment, low prices, low profits, and bankruptcies.

After he left the White House Grant and his wife embarked on a two-year world tour. The trip began in Liverpool in May 1877, where enormous crowds greeted the ex-president and his entourage. The Grants dined with Queen Victoria at Windsor Castle, and Grant gave several speeches in London.

After a tour on the continent, the Grants spent a few months with their daughter Nellie, who had married an Englishman and moved to that country several years before. Grant and his wife journeyed to France and Italy, spending Christmas 1877 aboard USS Vandalia, a warship docked in Palermo.

A winter sojourn in the Holy Land followed, and they visited Greece before returning to Italy and a meeting with Pope Leo XIII. They toured Spain before moving on to Germany, where Grant discussed military matters with Chancellor Otto von Bismarck, telling him that in final stages of the Civil War, the Union Army fought to preserve the nation and to “destroy slavery”.

The Grants left from England by ship, sailing through the Suez Canal to India. They visited cities throughout the Raj, welcomed by colonial officials. After India, they toured Burma, Siam (where Grant met with King Chulalongkorn), Singapore, and Cochinchina (Vietnam). 

Traveling on to Hong Kong, Grant began to change his mind on the nature of colonization, believing that British rule was not “purely selfish” but also good for the colonial subjects. Leaving Hong Kong, the Grants visited the cities of Canton, Shanghai, and Peking, China.

He declined to ask for an interview with the Guangxu Emperor, a child of seven, but did speak with the head of government, Prince Gong, and Li Hongzhang, a leading general. They discussed China’s dispute with Japan over the Ryukyu Islands, and Grant agreed to help bring the two sides to agreement. After crossing over to Japan and meeting the Emperor Meiji, Grant convinced China to accept the Japanese annexation of the islands, and the two nations avoided war.

Both of the Grants were homesick and in 1879 they returned to the United States by way of San Francisco where they were greeted by cheering crowds. By the end of the year the were back in Philadelphia. Grant’s new-found popularity encouraged the Stalwart faction of the Republican Party to press him to run for a third term. The 1880 convention became in a bitter contest that lasted 36 ballots until James Garfield, a compromise candidate was nominated.

Grant tried several business but eventually they were all unsuccessful. The ventures depleted Grant’s savings and he was forced to sell  his Civil War mementos and the sale or transfer of all other assets. By 1884 he was bankrupt and destitute.

After writing several articles about the war which were well received, Grant began to write his memoirs at the urging of the editor, Robert Underwood Johnson.

By late 1884 Grant had received a diagnosis of throat cancer. Despite his debilitating illness, Grant worked diligently on his memoirs at his home in New York City, and then from a cottage on the slopes of Mount McGregor, finishing only days before he died.

Century magazine offered Grant a book contract with a 10 percent royalty, but Grant accepted a better offer from his friend, Mark Twain, who proposed a 75 percent royalty. His memoir ends with the Civil War, and does not cover the post-war years, including his presidency.

The book, Personal Memoirs of Ulysses S. Grant, was a critical and commercial success. In the end, Julia Grant received about $450,000 in royalties. The memoir has been highly regarded by the public, military historians, and literary critics.

After a year-long struggle with the cancer, Grant died at 8 o’clock in the morning in the Mount McGregor cottage on July 23, 1885, at the age of 63. Phillip Sheridan, then Commanding General of the Army, ordered a day-long tribute to Grant on all military posts, and President Grover Cleveland ordered a thirty-day nationwide period of mourning.

After private services, the honor guard placed Grant’s body on a special funeral train, which traveled to West Point and New York City. A quarter of a million people viewed it in the two days before the funeral. Tens of thousands of men, many of them veterans from the Grand Army of the Republic (GAR) or other veterans’ organizations, marched with Grant’s casket drawn by two dozen horses to Riverside Park in Manhattan. His pallbearers included Union generals Sherman and Sheridan, Confederate generals Simon Bolivar Buckner and Joseph E. Johnston, Admiral David Dixon Porter, and Senator John A. Logan, the head of the GAR.

Grant’s body was laid to rest in Riverside Park, first in a temporary tomb, and then—twelve years later, on April 17, 1897—in the General Grant National Memorial, also known as “Grant’s Tomb”. The tomb is the largest mausoleum in North America. Attendance at the New York funeral topped 1.5 million.Ceremonies were held in other major cities around the country, and those who eulogized Grant in the press likened him to George Washington and Abraham Lincoln.

Ulysses S. Grant had come a long way from Galena, Illinois to the height of fame. His main character trait as a general was highlighted by Abraham Lincoln. When he was pressed to remove Grant after the Battle of Shiloh, Lincoln told the critic: ‘I can’t spare this man; he fights.'”




Surrender at Bennett Place

The final chapter in the Carolinas Campaign and coincidentally in the Civil War in the East took place at Bennet Place (also known as Bennett Farm), near Durham, North Carolina over the space of ten days in mid to late April 1865.

After the Battle of Bentonville which took place in eastern North Carolina from March 19th to the 26th, the defeated Confederate Army of the South retreated to Raleigh, the North Carolina State Capital. Unable to secure the city, Lt. Gen. Joseph E. Johnston ordered his army further west to Greensboro.

Bennett Place Historic SiteBy April 13th, Confederate cavalry under Generals Wade Hampton III and Joseph Wheeler clashed with Union cavalry commanded by General Judson Kilpatrick in the area of Morrisville, North Carolina, about 20 miles south of Durham. The Confederate force was frantically trying to transport their remaining supplies and wounded by rail westward toward the final Confederate encampment in Greensboro.

Kilpatrick, an aggressive young commander, used artillery on the heights overlooking Morrisville Station and cavalry charges to push the Confederates out of the small village leaving many needed supplies behind. However, the trains were able to withdraw by the 15th with wounded soldiers from the Battle of Bentonville and the Battle of Averasboro.

After the engagement at Morrisville, Johnston sent a messenger through the Union lines with a message for Maj. Gen. William T. Sherman, the Union Army Group commander. In it Johnston requested a meeting with Sherman in order to discuss a truce between the armies.

Johnston had met with Confederate President Jefferson Davis who wished to continue the struggle, even to disbanding the army and continuing with guerrilla warfare. It is believed that Johnston, like Robert E. Lee, was not interested in fighting on under that basis. Both men felt that the South would suffer greater if that occurred.

The two men met at Bennett Place on April 17th. Johnston was escorted by a detachment of about 60 troopers of the 5th South Carolina Cavalry Regiment, traveled east along the Hillsborough Road toward Durham Station. This unit had been in near continuous combat since June of 1862.

Sherman road west from Morrisville with an escort of about 200 cavalrymen from the 9th and 13th Pennsylvania, 8th Indiana and 2nd Kentucky Cavalry. Like their Southern counterparts, the Union units all had a long list of battles fought both in the Eastern and the Western Theaters.

The two generals met near the farm of James and Nancy Bennett. It being the most convenient place with the most privacy, the two men availed First meeting between Joesph Johnston and William Shermanthemselves of the Bennett’s hospitality and sat down to discuss a truce.

James and Nancy Bennett were like many families who suffered tremendously during the four years of war. They lost three sons: Lorenzo, who served in the 27th North Carolina, buried in Winchester, Virginia; Alphonzo, who is currently unaccounted for in the family history; and their daughter Eliza’s husband, Robert Duke, who died in a Confederate Army hospital and is buried in Lynchburg, Virginia.

The first day’s discussion (April 17) was intensified by the telegram Sherman handed to Johnston, informing of the assassination of President Abraham Lincoln. They met the following day, April 18, and signed terms of surrender. Unfortunately, they were not only more generous than those that General Grant gave to General Lee but they also included non-military conditions that were not under the purview of a purely military surrender.

Sherman’s original terms matched those of that Grant gave to Lee but Johnston, influenced by President Davis, pressed him for political terms, including the reestablishment of state governments after the war. The authorities in Washington immediately rejected them. Sherman notified Johnston that the truce would expire on the 26th if there was no formal surrender in the interim.

Johnston responded by agreeing to the purely military terms and signed the surrender document on April 26th. The surrender disbanded all active Confederate forces in North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, and Florida, totaling 89,270 soldiers, the largest group to surrender during the war.

After the surrender, Sherman issued ten days’ rations to the hungry Confederate soldiers, as well as horses and mules for them to “insure a crop.” He also ordered distribution of corn, meal, and flour to civilians throughout the South. This was an act of generosity that Johnston would never forget; he wrote to Sherman that his attitude “reconciles me to what I have previously regarded as the misfortune of my life, that of having you to encounter in the field.”





The End of the Army of Northern Virginia

Grant and LeeThe end of the war for the Army of Northern Virginia came after a series of disastrous defeats in late March and early April of 1865. The Confederate soldiers were tired, outnumbered and hungry. They had very little hope in achieving victory.

The battle of Five Forks was immediately preceded by two battles on March 31, 1865. At the Battle of White Oak Road, infantry of the Union Army’s V Corps of the Army of the Potomac pushed back the main line of Confederate defenses on the right flank of the Army of Northern Virginia southwest of Petersburg.

The V Corps blocked two important roads as well as taking a better position for an attack on the Confederate line. At the Battle of Dinwiddie Court House, Sheridan’s cavalry tactically lost a battle to Pickett’s combined force but had fewer casualties and averted being dispersed or forced to retreat from the area. At nightfall, Sheridan’s troopers still held a defensive line 0.75 miles north of Dinwiddie Court House.

At Five Forks on April 1st the Confederates were  savaged by the forces of General Phil Sheridan who told his officers to bust up the Confederates. The Union forces sustained 830 casualties while the Confederates suffered 2,950 total casualties.

The Confederate officers were at a shad bake and were unable to hear the noise from the battle. An acoustic shadow in the thick woods and heavy, humid atmospheric conditions prevented them from hearing the opening stage of the battle. Pickett and Lee had not told any of the next ranking officers of their absence and that those subordinates, in particular Major General W.H.F. “Rooney” Lee, were temporarily in charge.

Robert E. Lee ordered his forces to leave Petersburg and head west. This began the retreat of the Army of Northern Virginia and ultimately defeat. The two armies fought a series of engagements large and small: Grant and Lee

The engagements were a mixture of infantry and cavalry actions. The Union forces continued to push the Confederates to the west. Whenever they approached supplies they were pushed back. Lee wanted to get to Lynchburg where he hoped to get some relief from the constant Union attacks.

But Grant’s armies began to enclose the Army of Northern Virginia from the rear, the front, the north and the south. Lee launched an attack to break through the Union force to his front, assuming the Union force consisted entirely of cavalry. When he realized that the cavalry was backed up by two corps of Union infantry, he had no choice but to surrender.