Anna Moffett's Civil War - 17
April 15, 1865
Dear Mother & Elizabeth,
What wonderful news about James & Alex being paroled, even if the reasons behind it are not exactly what we would wish. But at least they don't have to experience this hell hole.
On April 10th they announced Lee's surrender to us by firing the fort's 131 guns in celebration. & we can be released as soon as we sign the various forms.
You ask if things in here are better now that the war is nearly over.
The sentinels are now familiar. Seems as if they think the war is nearly over; so they
talk to us a little & kindly. Their very looks are kindly. We see manifestations of kindness everywhere. Feelings of forgiveness are rapidly growing. The sutler is ready to take orders for anything we want & to send for them, clothing, shoes etc. It is rumored that anyone willing to take the oath of allegiance will be released, provided with necessary things & sent home, by the Government.
That such was the purpose of Mr. Lincoln, & General Grant we do not doubt. We think this is dictated by a generous kindness & designed to save us from humiliation & mortification, by making
us citizens at once if we wished to become so & that the Federal Government thinks the war was over. We do not think such an offer would be made unless Grant & Lincoln think the war over. It would have been an insult & we knew these men were wholly incapable of insulting us in prison. These things had a powerful effect on us.
The change in all the bearing of all the Yankees, from the highest down to the cooks is
In a day or so after the rumor that the oath of allegiance would be tendered us, an official came on the prison grounds with a book or paper in his hands & a table was placed in the midst of the yard, - we were requested, not ordered, to form a line & answer our names as they were called. We were told that all who were willing to take the oath of allegiance to the Government could answer, "Aye," &
would be returned home. That those who answered "No" would be held prisoners of war. The tone & manner of the official was kindly. He looked as if he thought all would answer, "Aye."
We formed a line. The call of the roll began. The first answer was a very distinct "No." The officer was evidently abashed. The next, "Aye," & so the call proceeded, until some 3,000 or more were given. A small majority "Aye's" but I was not one of them.
"Gentlemen," he said, "you will be sent home as soon as we can get transportation. We will do the best we can for you," or something to that effect. After this was over we dispersed & there was a good deal of comment. Some kindly & charitable, some harsh. But this feeling wore away, & they who made the severe remarks became more charitable & our harmony was restored. In the midst of this kindly feeling between us & our enemies & of general pacification, we grew more cheerful.
As I have stated the terms of surrender granted Genl Lee & his army the speech of Mr. Lincoln, making manifest his generous policy had an all-powerful effect on us. The lion of war in our hearts was daily changing into the lamb of peace. To have given a Confederate yell would have been
impossible, because that yell was the voice of the lion of war in our hearts that had been soothed into slumber. Nothing but the war passion could call it forth & that passion was gone. Not from the
surrender of Lee's army but from the generous terms of that surrender. An act of peace & voluntary magnanimity coming from a great soldier & the humanity of Mr. Lincoln. We felt the demoniac faction at Washington was cow'd & silenced, that they dare not oppose the great chieftain & kind President. We affiliated with the officials that came on the prison grounds & somewhat with the sentinels.
Love from George
Lincoln has been assassinated. I will talk more about that later. What will happen now? But I must try to write first the story of the end of the war. .
The Battle of Appomattox Court House, fought on the morning of April 9th was the final engagement of the Confederate Army fought by General Robert E Lee's troops
troops, before they surrendered to the Union Army under Lt. General Ulysses E Grant. Lee, having abandoned the Confederate capital of Richmond, Virginia retreated west, hoping to join his army with the Confederate forces in North Carolina.
Union forces pursued & cut off the Confederate retreat. Lee's final stand was at Appomattox Court House where he 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. The signing of the surrender documents occurred on the afternoon of April 9. On April 12, a formal ceremony marked the disbandment of the Army of Northern Virginia & the parole of its officers & men, effectively ending the war in Virginia.
The terms were as generous as Lee could hope for; his men would not be imprisoned or prosecuted for treason. In addition to his terms, Grant also allowed the defeated men to take home their horses & mules to carry out the spring planting & provided Lee with a supply of food rations for his starving army; Lee said it would have a very happy effect among the men & do much toward reconciling the
As Lee left the house & rode away, Grant's men began cheering in celebration, but Grant ordered an immediate stop. "The Confederates are now our countrymen & we do not want to exult over their downfall. Custer & other Union officers purchased from McLean the furnishings of the room Lee & Grant met in as souvenirs, emptying it of furniture. Grant soon visited the Confederate army, then he & Lee sat on the McLean home's porch & met with visitors such as Longstreet &George Pickett before the two men left for their capitals.
On April 10, Lee gave his farewell address to his army. The same day a six-man commission gathered to discuss a formal ceremony of surrender, even though no Confederate officer
wished to go through with such an event. Brig. Gen Joshua Chamberlai was the Union officer selected to lead the ceremony & later he reflected on what he witnessed on April 12, 1865, & wrote a moving tribute:
Sherman, in keeping with Lincoln's stated wishes for a compassionate & forgiving end to the war, agreed on terms of surrender that included the political issues. However, Union officials in Washington angered over the recent assassination of Lincoln, turned them down in favor of purely military terms.
James & Alex were among the soliders paroled at Appomattox Court House. I wonder when James will be able to come home. And Alex to his.
President Lincoln was shot by an actor, John Wilkes Booth. I heard that his family was
from Liverpool. I wonder if the Halls knew them.
Dear Mother & Elizabeth,
Yes, we have heard about Mr. Lincoln's assassination & I must admit that things in here have grown worse again as a result.
The announcement of the surrender of Genl Johnston had but little effect. It was expected. The terms were gratifying & as we thought but reflected the policy of the dead President, & of Genl Grant. Had not the President been assassinated, in our opinion they would have been confirmed. Their rejection by the Administration caused much speculation & apprehension. All sorts of rumors, growing out of this, no doubt, got afloat; some horrible & trying.
Finally the South Carolina prisoners agreed to call a meeting to determine whether we would take the oath of allegiance if it should be again offered us, now that Genl Johnston had surrendered; & whether we would compromise the honor of the commonwealth by signifying our readiness to take the oath; whether this would in any wise look like asking pardon.
I will remark that on the surrender of Genl Lee, many had accepted the offer to take the
oath, for then the amicable generous policy of Genl Grant, & Mr. Lincoln had calmed our war spirit. Now all was changed. Had not that policy been so benign they would not have consented to take the oath while Genl Johnston was in the field or we had an army. We who had then declined the offer were now to consider what we would do.
Terrible rumors were all around us & terrible apprehensions had grown out of them. The policy of the new Administration was dark & threatening. It had rekindled the war spirit in us. Would we make any
concessions to mollify that policy? We would not ask forgiveness, for we had done no wrong. We would do nothing that could be construed into fear or weakness. We had a heart for any fate. We had defended the Commonwealth on the battle field. We had suffered all sorts of horrors in prison. We would die sooner than do any thing to compromise the honor of South Carolina.
The meeting was called in the Virginia section, which my friend John has told me about. All the prisoners were waiting for the action of Virginia. The interest all over the prison was profound. They assembled in a large "Division," No. 34. It was crowded to suffocation. All who could get in were present, many on the outside, who could not get in where they could hear.
The first speaker argued that we must not under any conditions surrender, but must remain passive as long as there was a shadow of hope etc. He paid a high tribute of praise to Mr. Davis & argued that we must await his fate, as it were.
The next speaker said, "I cannot see, if you will allow me to give an opinion, any rational hope of aiding a Cause now manifestly lost, by refusing the oath of allegiance if again offered us. The surrender of our armies is enough to advise us that hope is gone & that there is nothing left but to accept such terms as the conqueror may choose to grant. The terms granted our two Christian warriors, so far from being humiliating were generous & kind & honorable & humane in the Generals who offered them. If it was no discredit to the soldiers who surrendered with arms in their hands, can it be a discredit to the Commonwealth for us to make known to the Government of the United States that we are now ready & willing to accept terms the same in substance as granted them? What can we do here? Nothing but suffer & die. If honor or the fame of the Commonwealth requires it, then we are ready to perish, even here. But does it require so great sacrifice? Had we a Government we might hesitate. But we have none."
Love from George