End Of A Tragedy: The Road To Appomattox

The purpose of this paper is to illustrate the events surrounding the

end of the American Civil War. This war was a war of epic proportion.

Never before and not since have so many Americans died in battle. The

American Civil War was truly tragic in terms of human life. In this

document, I will speak mainly around those involved on the battlefield in

the closing days of the conflict. Also, reference will be made to the

leading men behind the Union and Confederate forces.

The war was beginning to end by January of 1865. By then, Federal

(Federal was another name given to the Union Army) armies were spread

throughout the Confederacy and the Confederate Army had shrunk extremely in

size. In the year before, the North had lost an enormous amount of lives,

but had more than enough to lose in comparison to the South. General Grant

became known as the "Butcher" (Grant, Ulysses S., Personal Memoirs of U.S.

Grant, New York: Charles L. Webster & Co.,1894) and many wanted to see him

removed. But Lincoln stood firm with his General, and the war continued.

This paper will follow the happenings and events between the winter of

1864-65 and the surrender of The Confederate States of America. All of

this will most certainly illustrate that April 9, 1865 was indeed the end

of a tragedy.


In September of 1864, General William T. Sherman and his army cleared

the city of Atlanta of its civilian population then rested ever so briefly.

It was from there that General Sherman and his army began its famous


to the sea". The march covered a distance of 400 miles and was 60 miles

wide on the way. For 32 days no news of him reached the North. He had cut

himself off from his base of supplies, and his men lived on what ever they

could get from the country through which they passed. On their route, the

army destroyed anything and everything that they could not use but was

presumed usable to the enemy. In view of this destruction, it is

understandable that Sherman quoted "war is hell" (Sherman, William T.,

Memoirs of General William T. Sherman. Westport, Conn.:Greenwood Press,

1972). Finally, on December 20, Sherman's men reached the city of Savannah

and from there Sherman telegraphed to President Lincoln: "I beg to present

you as a Christmas gift the city of Savannah, with 150 heavy guns and

plenty of ammunition, and also about 25,000 bales of cotton" (Sherman,

William T., Memoirs of General William T. Sherman. Westport,

Conn.:Greenwood Press, 1972).

Grant had decided that the only way to win and finish the war would be

to crunch with numbers. He knew that the Federal forces held more than a

modest advantage in terms of men and supplies. This in mind, Grant


Sherman to turn around now and start heading back toward Virginia. He

immediately started making preparations to provide assistance to Sherman on

the journey. General John M. Schofield and his men were to detach from the

Army of the Cumberland, which had just embarrassingly defeated the

Confederates at Nashville, and proceed toward North Carolina. His final

destination was to be Goldsboro, which was roughly half the distance

between Savannah and Richmond. This is where he and his 20,000 troops

would meet Sherman and his 50,000 troops.

Sherman began the move north in mid-January of 1865. The only hope of

Confederate resistance would be supplied by General P.G.T. Beauregard. He

was scraping together an army with every resource he could lay his hands

on, but at best would only be able to muster about 30,000 men. This by

obvious mathematics would be no challenge to the combined forces of

Schofield and Sherman, let alone Sherman. Sherman's plan was to march

through South Carolina all the while confusing the enemy. His men would

march in two ranks: One would travel northwest to give the impression of a

press against Augusta and the other would march northeast toward

Charleston. However the one true objective would be Columbia.

Sherman's force arrived in Columbia on February 16. The city was

burned to the ground and great controversy was to arise. The Confederates

claimed that Sherman's men set the fires "deliberately, systematically, and

atrociously". However, Sherman claimed that the fires were burning when

they arrived. The fires had been set to cotton bales by Confederate

Calvary to prevent the Federal Army from getting them and the high winds

quickly spread the fire. The controversy would be short lived as no proof

would ever be presented. So