We have shared the incommunicable experience of war. We have felt, we still feel, the passion of life to its top. In our youths, our hearts were touched with fire.
By the summer of 1861, Wilmer McLean had had enough. Two great armies were converging on his farm and what would be the first major battle of the Civil War, Bull Run, or Manassas as the Confederates called it, would soon rage across the aging Virginian's farm: a Union shell going so far as to explode in the summer kitchen. Now McLean moved his family away from Manassas, far south and west of Richmond, out of harm's way, he prayed, to a dusty little crossroads' called Appomattox Court House. And it was there in his living room, three-and-a-half years later, that Lee surrendered to Grant. Wilmer McLean could rightfully say, "The War began in my front yard and ended in my front parlor."
The Civil War was fought in ten thousand places, from Valverde, New Mexico and Tullahoma, Tennessee, to St. Albans, Vermont and Fernandina on the Florida Coast. More than three million Americans fought in it. And over six hundred thousand men, two percent of the population, died in it.
What began as a bitter dispute over Union and State's Rights, ended as a struggle over the meaning of freedom in America.
"No day ever dawns for the slave," a freed black man wrote, "nor is it looked for. For the slave it is all night - all night forever." One white Mississippian was more blunt: "I'd rather be dead," he said, "than be a nigger on one of these big plantations."
A slave entered the world in a one-room, dirt-floored shack. Drafty in winter, reeking in summer, slave cabins bred pneumonia, typhus, cholera, lockjaw, and tuberculosis. The child who survived to be sent to the fields at 12 was likely to have worms, rotten teeth, dysentery and malaria. Fewer than four in a hundred lived to be 60.
There was never a moment in our history when slavery was not a sleeping serpent. It lay coiled up under the table during the deliberations of the Constitutional Convention. Owing to the cotton gin, it was more than half awake. Thereafter, slavery was on everyone's mind, though not always on his tongue.
Here before God, in the presence of these witnesses, I consecrate my life to the destruction of slavery.
We are separated because of incompatibility of temper. We are divorced North from South, because we hated each other so.
Mary Chesnut (The actual quote from A Diary from Dixie is: "We separated North from South because of incompatibility of temper. We are divorced because we have hated each other so.")
I, John Brown, am now quite certain that the crimes of this guilty land will never be purged away but with blood.
John Brown, John Brown...very important person in history. Important, though, for only one episode. Failure in everything in life, except he becomes the single most-important factor, in my opinion, in bringing on the War. The militia system in the South, which had been a joke before this, before then, becomes a viable instrument, as the Southern militias begin to take a true form and the South begins to worry about Northerners agitating the Blacks to murder them in their beds.
In your hands, my dissatisfied countrymen, and not in mine, is the momentous issue of civil war. The government will not assail you. You can have no conflict without being yourselves the aggressors. We are not enemies, but friends. We must not be enemies. Though passion may have strained, it must not break our bonds of affection. The mystic chords of memory, stretching from every battlefield and patriot grave to every living heart and hearthstone all over this broad land will yet swell the chorus of the Union, when again touched, as surely they will be, by the better angels of our nature.
President Abraham Lincoln in his first inaugural address, March 4th, 1861
After the sacrifice of countless millions of treasure and hundreds of thousands of lives, you may win Southern Independence. But I doubt it.
Let me tell you what is coming. ‘‘‘After the sacrifice of countless millions of treasure and hundreds of thousands of lives, you may win Southern Independence. But I doubt it. The North is determined to preserve the Union. They are not a fiery, impulsive people as you are, for they live in colder climates. But when they begin to move in a given direction, they move with the steady momentum and perseverance of a mighty avalanche.
Not by one word or look can we detect any change in the demeanor of the Negro servants. ... They make no sign. Are they ... stupid? Or wiser than we are; silent and strong, biding their time?
I tell you that if I were on by death bed tomorrow and the President of the United States should tell me that a great battle was to be fought for the liberty or slavery of the country, and asked my judgment as to the ability of a commander, I would say with my dying breath, let it be Robert E. Lee!
To preserve the Constitution, Lincoln had for 3 months gone beyond it: waging war without Congressional consent; seizing Northern telegraph offices; suspending habeas corpus. To keep the border states from seceding, Lincoln sent troops to occupy Baltimore and clapped the mayor and 19 secessionist legislators in jail, without trial. Chief Justice Taney ruled that the President had exceeded his power. Lincoln simply ignored him. "More rogues than honest men find shelter under habeas corpus," he said, and even contemplated arresting the Chief Justice.
Little did I conceive of the greatness of the defeat, the magnitude of the disaster which has been entailed on the United States. So short lived has been the American Union that men who saw it rise may live to see it fall.
It was almost inconceivable that anything that horrendous could happen. [..] If we had ten percent casualties in a battle today it would be looked on as a blood bath. They had thirty percent, in several battles, and one after another.
Shiloh had the same number of casualties as Waterloo, and yet when it was fought there were another twenty Waterloos to follow
I always shot at Privates. It was they who did the shooting and killing and if I could kill or wound me a Private, well my chances were so much the better. I always looked on Officers as harmless personages.
February 9, 1862. Dear Mr. President: General McClellan has almost ruined your administration and the country. He is a do-nothing. He is thinking of the presidency in '64. He is placating the Rebels—that’s what ails him. Depend upon it.
What shall I do? The people are impatient. Chase has no money and tells me he can raise no more. The General of the Army, McClellan, has typhoid fever. The bottom is out of the tub. What shall I do?
President Abraham Lincoln to Quartermaster General Montgomery C. Meigs
In the midst of all his troubles, the President delighted in his sons. The oldest, Robert, was away at Harvard, but Willie, 11, and eight-year-old Thomas, known as Tad, had the run of the White House. Willie was studious, liked to compose verse and memorize railroad timetables. He had raised a boys’ battalion from among his schoolmates and invaded Cabinet meetings with his "troops." In February, he developed what the doctor called bilious fever. His parents sat up night after night to nurse him. On February 20, Willie died. For three months, Mary Lincoln veered between loud weeping and silent depression and sought to communicate with her dead child through spiritualists.
The War left Lincoln little time to mourn. He was soon back working 18 hours a day.
News stories described him coolly smoking under fire, and admirers shipped him barrels of cigars. A delighted Northern public now thought they knew what the initials in his name stood for: they called him "Unconditional Surrender Grant."
Once more, let me tell you: it is indispensable to you that you strike a blow...I have never written to you, nor spoken to you, in greater kindness than now, nor with a fuller purpose to sustain you...But you must act.
President Abraham Lincoln in a telegram dated 9 April 1862 addressed to the Commander of the Army of the Potomac, George McClellan
Shiloh had the same number of casualties as Waterloo, and yet when it was fought there were another twenty Waterloos to follow; and Grant shortly before Shiloh said 'I consider this war practically over and they're ready to give up', and the day after Shiloh he said 'I saw this was going to have to be a war of conquest if they were going to win'. Shiloh did that, and it sobered the nation up something awful with the realization that they had a very bloody affair on their hands.
Years afterward, a Union veteran said the most a soldier could say of any fight was "I was worse scared than I was at Shiloh." Shiloh is a Hebrew word, meaning "place of peace."
April 11, 1862. I firmly believe that, before many centuries more, science will be the master of man. The engines he will have invented will be beyond his strength to control. Someday, science shall have the existence of mankind in its power, and the human race commit suicide by blowing up the world.
The minie ball could kill at half a mile and was accurate at 250 yards, five times as far as any other one man weapon. The age of the bayonet charge was over, though most officers did not yet know it when the war began. And some had still not yet learned it when the war was over.
A law was made...allowing every person who owned 20 negroes to go home. It gave us the blues. We wanted 20 negroes...there was raised the howl of "rich man’s war, poor man’s fight." From this time on till the end of the War, a soldier was simply a machine: a conscript. All our pride and valor had gone and we were sick of war and cursed the Southern Confederacy.
A worried Jefferson Davis now prepared for a siege of Richmond, relying more and more on the advice of his close military adviser, Robert E. Lee. When Davis asked Lee where Lee though the South’s next defensive line should be drawn once Richmond fell, Lee said, "Richmond must not fall. It shall not be given up." Still, George McClellan refused to attack. Though his army still outnumbered the rebels, he remained convinced the opposite was true. One observer noted that McClellan had a particular faculty for "realizing hallucinations."
We talk of the irrepressible conflict and practically give the lie to our talk. We wage war against slaveholding rebels and yet protect and augment the motive, which has moved the slaveholders to rebellion. We strike at the effect and leave the cause unharmed. Fire will not burn it out of us. Water cannot wash it out of us—that this war with the slaveholders can never be brought to a desirable termination until slavery, the guilty cause of all our national troubles, has been totally and forever abolished.
It had been the bloodiest day in American history. The Union lost 2,108 dead, another 10,293 wounded or missing, double the number of casualties of D-Day, 82 years later. Lee lost fewer men, 10,318 casualties. But that was a quarter of his army.
He would have a man shot at the drop of a hat, and he would drop it himself.
He who does not see the hand of God in this is blind, sir, blind.
I have been reading so much about the Yankees, I was very anxious to see them. The whites would tell their colored people not to go to the Yankees, for they would harness them to carts and make them pull the carts around in place of horses. I asked Grandmother one day if this was true. She replied, "Certainly not!," that the white people did not want slaves to go over to the Yankees and told them these things to frighten them. I wanted to see those wonderful Yankees so much, as I heard my parents say that the Yankees was going to set all the slaves free.
All but one of the battles of the Seven Days were Union victories, yet McClellan treated them as defeats, continuing to back down until he reached the safety of federal gunboats at Harrison’s Landing on the James River. Union officers urged a counterattack. Lee had lost 20,000 men. McClellan refused. One officer suggested his commander was motivated either by "cowardice or treason".
In just one week, Lee had completely unnerved the Union general, and demonstrated for the first time the strengths that would make him a legend. Surprise, audacity, and an eerie ability to read his opponents mind. In just seven days, McClellan had been totally out-generalled.
He could not let himself be made a fool, the Union be made a fool, by standing up for principles that could not be vindicated on the battlefield.
Barbara Fields on Lincoln's decision to wait for a victory before announcing the Emancipation Proclamation
Sunday, a Soldier of Company A died and was buried. Everything went on as if nothing had happened. Death is so common that little sentiment is wasted. It is not like death at home.
We were now the missionaries of a great work of redemption, the armed liberators of millions. The war was ignoble, the object was higher
Before the sunlight faded, I walked all over the narrow field. All around lay the Confederate dead, clad in butternut. As I looked down on the poor pinched faces, all enmity died out. There was no secession in those rigid forms, nor in those fixed eyes staring at the sky. Clearly, it was not their war.
Private David L. Thompson, 9th New York
It had been the bloodiest day in American history. The Union lost 2,108 dead, another 10,293 wounded or missing, double the number of casualties of D-Day, 82 years later. Lee lost fewer men, 10,318 casualties. But that was a quarter of his army.
McClellan had plenty of reserves waiting outside Sharpsburg, but he never used them. Lee, outnumbered 3-to-1, braced for a new attack all the next day. It never came. On the 18th, Lee and his army slipped back across the Potomac. McClellan could claim a victory, but he could have won the War. Lee’s invasion had been halted, he had suffered terrible losses, but his army had not been destroyed.
You do have a big problem when you have units that are from states and counties and even towns. And one of those regiments can get in a tight spot in a particular battle, like in the cornfield at Sharpsburg. ‘‘‘And the news may be that there are no more young men in that town. They're all dead.
The dead of the battlefield come up to us very rarely, even in dreams. We see the lists in the morning with paper at breakfast, but dismiss this recollection with a coffee. Mr. Matthew Brady has done something to bring to us the terrible reality and carelessness of the war. If he has not brought bodies and laid them at our doorstep, he has done something very like it.
Review of Matthew Brady's Gallery 'The Dead of Antietam' in New York City
It was no longer a question of the Union as it was, that was to be reestablished. It was the Union as it should be, that is to say, washed clean from its original sin. We were no longer merely the Soldiers of a political controversy, we were now the missionaries of a great work of redemption, the armed liberators of millions. The war was ignoble, the object was higher.
The dogmas of the quiet past are inadequate to the stormy present. As our case is new, so we must think anew and act anew. We must disenthrall ourselves, and then we shall save our country. Fellow citizens, we cannot escape history. The fiery trial through which we pass will light us down, in honor or dishonor, to the latest generation. We say we are for Union. The world will not forget that we say this. In giving freedom to the slave, we assure freedom to the free – honorable alike in what we give and what we preserve. We shall nobly save, or meanly lose, the last best hope of Earth.
President Abraham Lincoln, 2nd State of the Union Address, 1 December 1862
They still thought that to mass their fire they had to mass their men. So they lined up and marched up toward an entrenched line and got blown away.
More credit for valor is given to Confederate Soldiers. They were supposed to have more élan and dash. Actually, I know of no braver men in either army than the Union troops at Fredericksburg, which is a serious defeat. But to keep charging that wall at the foot of Marye's Heights after all the failures they been in, and they were all failures, is a singular instance of valor.
January 24, near Falmouth. Daylight showed a strange scene. Men, horses, artillery, pontoons, and wagons are stuck in the mud. Rebels put up a sign, says 'Burnside's stuck in the mud'. We can fight rebels, but not in the mud.
Elisha Hunt Rhodes
I wish you could hear Joshua give off a command and see him ride along the battalion on his white horse. He looked so splendidly. He told me last night that he never felt so well in his life.
What makes it strange is that I should have gained twelve pounds living on worms.
Those hateful gunboats. They look like they were from the lower regions. Now this is the second night that four of them have been anchored in the river opposite our house. [I] see the men crawling about on the boats like so many black snakes.
It was no uncommon occurrence for a man to find the surface of his pot of coffee swimming with weevils after breaking up hardtack in it. But they were easily skimmed off and left no distinctive flavor behind.
In March 1863, John Mosby’s Confederate Rangers raided Fairfax Courthouse, Virginia, capturing two captains, 30 Privates, 58 horses and Brigadier General Edwin Stoughton. "For that I am sorry," Lincoln said when told of the capture, "for I can make Brigadier Generals, but I can’t make horses." General Mosby had made life miserable for Northern commanders throughout the War. No other Confederate officer was mentioned favorably as many times in Robert E. Lee’s dispatches as John Singleton Mosby.
The Confederacy has been done to death by politicians.
'I make no terms', Davis once said, 'I make no compromise.' He refused to unbend in public, or to curry favor with the press. Privately, he commuted nearly every death sentence for desertion that reached his desk, explaining that "The poorest use of a Soldier was to shoot him."
Right beside the road would be Grant on his horse. A dust covered man on a dust covered horse, saying “move on, close up”. So they felt very much that he personally was in charge of their movement and it gave them that added confidence.
Davis may well have been the only Southerner who understood Southern Nationality, who understood what sacrifices had to be made if the Confederacy was ever going to gel as a nation. He kept saying, "I need the kind of powers that Lincoln got. I need the kind of resources that he got in the draft laws. I need to be able to suspend the writ of habeas corpus like he did." He would have said, "We can’t live by the dogmas of the quiet past any longer." He didn’t say that, but he acted that out. He said, "I have to be given the kinds—this Confederate government needs the kind of national authority—national power that the Union had in order to win." And they didn’t get it because States’ Rights helped kill the Confederacy.
Stephen B. Oates
General, I have placed you at the head of the Army of the Potomac...I have heard in such a way as to believe it of your recently saying that both the Army and the Government needed a dictator. Of course, it was not for this, but in spite of this that I’ve given you command. Only those generals who gain successes can set up as dictators. What I now ask of you is military success, and I will risk the dictatorship.
President Abraham Lincoln in a letter to Major General Joseph Hooker on January 26th, 1863
The hen is the wisest of all the animal creation, because she never cackles until after the egg is laid.
Abraham Lincoln, warning Hooker not to be overconfident about his ability to defeat Lee. He would be proven right, as Hooker's army was soundly defeated at the Battle of Chancellorsville.
Winfield Scott, Henry Halleck, Irving McDowell. George McClellan, John Pope, George McClellan again. Ambrose Burnside, Joseph Hooker. Lincoln could not find the General he needed. He now knew that to win the war, the Southern armies had to be crushed. He had the men, but he needed a General with the will to use them.
The men knew they were cut loose from their base, knew they were gonna be dependent for their supplies on a very tenuous supply line. But Grant himself gave’em confidence. They believed Grant knew what he was doing, and one great encouragement to them believing that was quite often on the march, whether at night or in the daytime, they’d be moving along the road or over a bridge, and right beside the road would be Grant on his horse. A dust covered man on a dust covered horse, saying “move on, close up”. So they felt very much that he personally was in charge of their movement and it gave them that added confidence.
More than once during the Civil War, newspapers reported a strange phenomenon. From only a few miles away, a battle sometimes made no sound, despite the flash and smoke of cannon and the fact that more-distant observers could hear it clearly. These eerie silences were called acoustic shadows.
In the summer of 1863 a Union warship hunting a Confederate commerce raider off Yokahama attacked a Japanese fleet for harassing the colony of Westerners there. The United States won its first naval battle against the Empire of Japan. But the Confederates got away.
If we had ten percent casualties in a battle today it would be looked on as a blood bath. They had thirty percent, in several battles, and one after another.
Stand firm you boys from Maine. For not once in a century are men permitted to bear such responsibilities for freedom and justice, for God and humanity, as are now placed upon you.
Private Theodore Gerrish
General Longstreet, I think, had a good reason to worry about attacking the Union position at Gettysburg. After all it was his corps at Fredericksburg that mowed down the Union troops in front of the stonewall. He could realize what the rifled musket could do, held in the hands of determined troops.
Lee, by the summer of 1863, had come to believe that he was invincible, and so was the Army of Northern Virginia. The record would almost invite that when you see how they had pummeled one Union General after another, and defeated, or at least fought to a draw the Army of the Potomac almost on every battle up to that point. And Lee really did think that if he asked his boys to do something, they would do it, that they would do anything. He had come by Gettysburg then to believe in his invincibility and that of his men. And it was his doom.
Stephen B. Oates
Probably his finest hour was after the repulse of Pickett's Charge. He walked out into the field, met the men retreating, and said "It is all my fault."
Shelby Foote, recounting GEN Lee's actions on July 3, 1863
Pickett was horrified. When told to rally his Division for a possible Union counterattack, Pickett answered, "General Lee, I have no division now." Pickett never forgave Lee. Years later he said, "That old man had my division slaughtered."
William Faulkner, in Intruder in the Dust, says that for every Southern boy, it’s always in his reach to imagine it being 1:00 on an early July day in 1863. The guns are laid. The troops are lined up. The flags are already out of their cases and ready to be unfurled. But it hasn’t happened yet. And he can go back to the time before the war was going to be lost. And he can always have that moment for himself.
The streets grew quiet when news of Gettysburg reached Clarksville, Tennessee. The 14th Tennessee regiment had left town two years before with 960 men. When the Battle of Gettysburg began, only 365 remained. ‘‘‘By the end of the first day there were 60 men left. By the end of the battle, there were only 3.
If this war developed some of the most brutal, bestial, and devilish qualities lurking in the human race, it has also shown us how much of the angel there is in the best of men and women.
Sally Tomkins of Richmond and a staff of only six nursed 1,333 wounded men in her private hospital, and kept all but 73 of them alive; a record unmatched by any other Civil War hospital, North or South.
The Confederacy was cut in two. The Mississippi had become a Union highway. “The father of waters,” Lincoln said, “again goes unvexed to the sea.”
We have lost the Mississippi, and our nation is divided, and there’s not enough left to fight for.
Confederate private captured in Vicksburg
The 4th of July would not be celebrated in Vicksburg again for 81 years.
No group was more outraged than the immigrant Irish of New York, who feared the blacks, who competed for the lowest-paying jobs, and for whose freedom they did not wish to fight. Democratic politicians fanned their anger.
Once a black Union Soldier spotted his former owner among a group of Confederate prisoners. 'Hello massa' he said, 'bottom rail on top this time'.
On the second day of fierce fighting, Rosecrans committed a fatal mistake, ordering his troops to close a gap in the Union line that wasn't there. In the process, he opened up a real one; and Longstreet's Confederates stormed through. The Union forces broke and ran.
He spoke just 269 words. He started off by reminding his audience that just 87 years had passed since the founding of the nation, and then he went on to embolden the Union cause with some of the most stirring words ever spoken.
That man Grant will fight us everyday and every hour until the end of the war. The man who stood before us...was the realized King Arthur.
While Grant conferred with Meade, members of his staff described Grant’s triumphs in the West. Veterans of the Army of the Potomac were not impressed. "That may be," one said, "But Grant never met Bobby Lee."
In 1861, Lee refused command of the northern army and followed his state out of the Union, not because he approved of slavery or secession, but because he believed his first duty was to Virginia.
I did only what my duty demanded. I could have taken no other course without dishonor.
The man who stood before us...was the realized King Arthur. The soul that looked out of his eyes was as honest and fearless as when it first looked out on life. One saw the character as clear as crystal, without complication, and the heart as tender as that of ideal womanhood.
Christiana Bond describing General Robert E. Lee
A Union girl watching Lee ride past her Pennsylvania home said, "I wish he were ours." Early in the War, he was ridiculed as "The King of Spades" because of his fondness for entrenching and "Granny Lee" because of his gray hair and strict ways. But after he drove McClellan off the Peninsula, stopped Pope at Second Manassas, demolished Burnside at Fredericksburg and destroyed Hooker at Chancellorsville, all despite overwhelming odds, he won the unshakable confidence of Jefferson Davis, and the unqualified love of his officers and men.
That man Grant will fight us everyday and every hour until the end of the war.
Never before in my lifetime did I ever see such a scene as was enacted when Lee pronounced these words. A yell rent the air which must've been heard for miles around. A courier riding by my side with tears coursing down his cheeks exclaimed 'I would charge hell itself for that old man!'
John GreggGeneral Lee had just called a division of Texan Infantry to battle with a shout of "Texans always move them"
May 7. If we were under any other General except Grant, I should expect to retreat. But Grant is not that kind of Soldier.
Elisha Hunt Rhodes Recorded after the defeat at the Battle of the Wilderness.
The demand down here for killing purposes is far ahead of the supply. Thank God however for the consolation that when the last man is killed, the war will be over.
Joseph E. Johnston, the Confederate commander who now faced Sherman, was heartily disliked by President Jefferson Davis, but he was very nearly worshipped by his men. "I do not believe there was a soldier in his army but would gladly have died for him. With him, everything was his soldiers. He would feed his soldiers if the country starved. Sam Watkins." Outgunned, outsupplied and outnumbered 2 to 1, Joseph Johnston could only hope to slow Sherman’s advance and perhaps lure him into making the kind of doomed frontal attack that would help swing the election against Lincoln.
Narrator (Charley McDowell provides voice of Sam Watkins)
In the first years of the war, battle was bloody but sporadic. From now on it would be waged without a break. From the Wilderness to Cold Harbor, it would not stop for thirty days. It was, one Soldier wrote, 'Living night and day in the Valley of the Shadow of Death.'
Petersburg is a magnificent sloop to the durability of men, on both sides. It was just a rehearsal for World War I, trench warfare. And they stood up very well to it. But the Soldiers always did in that war; its to us almost an incredible bravery, considering the casualties.
June 23, 1864. The demand down here for killing purposes is far ahead of the supply. Thank God however for the consolation that when the last man is killed, the war will be over. This war you know differs from previous wars in having no object to fight for. It can't be finished until all the men on either the one side or the other are killed. Both sides are trying to do that as fast as they can because it would be a pity to spin this affair out for two or three years longer.
In less than six months, from the Wilderness to Spotsylvania, Cold Harbor to Petersburg, Grant had nearly destroyed his Army.
July 4th 1864. The Glorious fourth has come again and we have had quite a celebration, with guns firing shot and shell into Petersburg to remind them of the day. This day makes four Fourth of Julys I have passed in the Army. The first at Camp Clark, the second at Harrison's Landing, the third at Gettysburg, and today at Petersburg.
Elisha Hunt Rhodes
A man who would stay on an ironclad from choice is a candidate for the insane asylum.
Robert B Ely, Union Sailor
I had a good time in Washington. Lager beer and a horse and buggy, and in the evening, horizontal refreshment! Or, in plainer words, riding a Dutch gal. Had a good time generally, I tell you.
Pvt. Eli Veesy, Union Soldier
Women who come before the public are in a bad box now. ... All manner of things, they say, come over the border under the huge hoops now worn, so they are ruthlessly torn off. Not legs but arms are looked for under hoops, and, sad to say, found.
Mary Chesnut, on the prevalence of female spies
The news came like a flash of lightning, staggering and blinding everyone. Farewell old fella, we privates loved ya because you made us love ourselves.
To avenge Sherman’s victories in Georgia, six Confederate agents slipped into New York City, armed with phosphorous, intent upon burning down the City's most fashionable hotels. They managed to light 10 fires and set P.T. Barnum's museum ablaze. Firemen put everything out. All but one of the Confederates got away. "The people of the North can't be rolling in wealth and comfort," the captured man said before he was hanged, "while we in the South are bearing all the hardship and privations."
I think that the North fought that war with one hand behind its back. [...] I think that if there had been more Southern successes, and a lot more, the North simply would have brought that other arm out from behind its back. I don't think the South ever had a chance to win that war.
Dear Nat, I think well of the President. He has a face like a Hoosier Michelangelo, so awful ugly it becomes beautiful, with its strange mouth, its deep-cut crisscross lines, and its doughnut complexion. I do not dwell on the supposed failures of his government. He has shown an almost supernatural tact in keeping the ship afloat at all. I more and more rely upon his idiomatic western genius.
Not the fall of Richmond, nor Wilmington, nor Charleston, nor Savannah, nor Mobile, nor all the combined can save the enemy from constant and exhaustive drain of blood and treasure, which must continue, until he shall discover that no peace is attainable unless based on the recognition of our indefeasible rights.
President Jefferson Davis
If it hadn’t begun before, the Lost Cause was born with his words. As Davis spoke at Richmond, his audience could hear Grant’s guns at Petersburg, just 20 miles away. More and more, it was becoming a Confederacy of the mind.
Lincoln now issued a proclamation, making the last Thursday in November a national day of Thanksgiving. In the trenches of Petersburg, 120,000 turkey and chicken dinners were served to Grant's huge Army. Only yards away, the Confederates had no feast, but held their fire all day in respect of the Union holiday.
On the night of November 25th , at the Winter Garden Theater on Broadway, Shakespeare's Julius Caesar opened. Three brothers had starring roles: Edwin, Junius and John Wilkes Booth. At one point in Shakespeare’s play, Cassius speaks of the assassination of Caesar: "How many ages hence shall this, our lofty scene, be acted over, in states unborn and accents yet unknown?"
By the spring of 1864 Union dead completely filled the military cemeteries of Washington and Alexandria. Secretary of War Stanton ordered the Quartermaster General, Montgomery Meigs to choose a new site. Meigs was a Georgian who had served under Lee in the peacetime army, but he had developed an intense hatred for all his fellow Southerners who fought against the Union he still served. Without hesitation he picked the grounds of Robert E. Lee's home of Arlington for the new Army cemetery. [...] Now the men Grant was sending to fight Robert E. Lee were being buried in Lee's own front yard. And that yard became Arlington National Cemetery: the Union's most hallowed ground.
We respected them, as every man with a heart must respect those who give all for their beliefs
We believed that it was most desirable that the north should win. We believed in the principle that the Union is indissoluble. We, or many of us at least also believed that the conflict was inevitable and that slavery had lasted long enough. But we equally believed those who stood against us held just as sacred convictions that were the opposite of ours. And we respected them, as every man with a heart must respect those who give all for their beliefs.
He saw from the very beginning how hard a war it was going to be. And when he said how hard a war it was going to be, he was retired under suspicion of insanity; and then brought back when they decided maybe he wasn't so crazy after all.
Shelby Foote (Referring to Gen William Sherman)
We were willing to go anywhere, or to follow anyone who would lead us. We were anxious to flee, fight, or fortify. I have never seen an army so confused and demoralized. The whole thing seemed to be tottering and trembling.
Sherman’s men were still harsher in South Carolina than they had been in Georgia. "Here is where treason began," a private said, "and by God, this is where it shall end."
Fondly do we hope, fervently do we pray, that this mighty scourge of war may speedily pass away. Yet if God wills that it continue until all the wealth piled up by the bondsman’s 250 years of unrequited toil shall be sunk and until every drop of blood drawn with the lash shall be paid by another drawn with the sword, as was said 3,000 years ago, so still must be said: the judgments of the Lord are true and righteous altogether. With malice towards none, with charity for all, with firmness in the right as God gives us to see the right, let us strike on to finish the work we are in; to bind up the nation’s wounds; to care for him who shall have borne the battle, and for his widow and his orphan; to do all which may achieve and cherish a just and lasting peace among ourselves and with all nations.
President Abraham Lincoln in his second inaugural address, March 4th, 1865.
I never saw him [Abraham Lincoln] again. Of all the men I ever met, he seemed to possess more of the elements of greatness, combined with goodness, than any other.
William Tecumseh Sherman
You are the country to these men.
The conduct of the Southern people appears many times to be truely noble, as exemplified for instance in the defense of Petersburg. Old men with silver locks lay dead in the trenches side by side with mere boys of thirteen or fourteen. It almost makes one sorry to have to fight against people who show such devotion for their homes and their country.
The few men who still carried their muskets had hardly the appearance of soldiers. Their clothes all tattered and covered with mud, their eyes sunken and lusterless. Yet still they were waiting for Gen. Lee to tell them where they were to face the valiant fight.
Magnus Thompson, Confederate Cavalryman
The country be damned, there is no country, there has been no country, for a year or more. You are the country to these men.
Confederate Officer to Gen R. E. Lee, urging him to surrender
It was the beginning of the unification of the country.
They knew each other. Grant remembered Lee very well. Lee didn't quite remember Grant. That was understandable from the time that they were acquainted, back in the early days. But I think it was the sensitivity that the two men had, for each other, and for the moment. Grant not wanting to get to the point too quickly. Lee bringing him up shortly to the point of why they're together. Lee, dressed in his last good uniform. Grant apologizing that he was rushing from the field and didn't have time to change. The scribe being unable to hold the pen steady and having it taken by another Soldier. That, from Lee's point of view, awful moment, and from Grant's point of view, glorious moment, and yet for the two of them, a sad and quiet moment. And Lee taking his leave, and doffing his hat from Traveler, and riding back to his troops after securing those reasonable terms. It was the beginning of the unification of the country.
If one army drank the joy of victory, and the other the bitter draft of defeat, it was a joy moderated by the recollection of the cost at which it had been purchased, and a defeat mollified by the consciousness of many triumphs. If the victor could recall a Malvern Hill, an Antietam, a Gettysburg, a Five Forks, the vanquished could recall a Manassas, a Fredericksburg, a Chancellorsville, a Cold Harbor.
A crowd of soldiers waited in front of Lee’s tent. "Boys," he told them, "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, and I shall always be proud of you. Good-bye, and God bless you all." He turned and disappeared into his tent.
My shoes are gone. My clothes are gone. I’m weary, sick, and hungry. My family have all been killed or scattered. I have suffered all this for my country. I love my country, but if this war is ever over, I’ll be damned if I ever love another country.
Confederate soldier in James Longstreet's army
"You may forgive us," a surrendering Rebel officer [Henry A. Wise] told Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain after the ceremony at Appomattox, "but we won’t be forgiven. There is a rancor in our hearts, which you little dream of. We hate you, sir."
We are scattered - stunned. The remnant of heart left alive in us is filled with brotherly hate. Whose fault? Everybody blamed [by] somebody else. Only the dead heroes left stiff and stark on the battlefield escape.
Mary Chesnut, on Confederate reaction to Lee's surrender
You, white people, are the children of Abraham Lincoln. We are, at best, only his stepchildren. Viewed from the genuine abolition ground, Mr. Lincoln seemed tardy, cold, dull, indifferent. But measuring him by the sentiment of his country, a sentiment he was bound as a statesman to consult, he was swift, zealous, radical and determined. Taking him all in all, measuring the tremendous magnitude of the work before him, considering the necessary means to ends, infinite wisdom has seldom sent any man into the world better fitted for his mission than Abraham Lincoln.
America has no north, no south, no east, no west. The sun rises over the hills and sets over the mountains. The compass just points up and down. And we can laugh now at the absurd notion of there being a north or a south. We are one and undivided.
Robert E. Lee swore renewed allegiance to the United States, and by so doing persuaded thousands of his former Soldiers to do the same.
So the war becomes, in essence, it becomes a testament for the liberation of the human spirit for all time.
Unable now to eat or speak, he sat on the front porch in the afternoon laboring over his manuscript. He finished it on July 16 and died one week later. Grant's memoirs sold half a million copies and restored his family's fortune.
The Civil War is not only the central event of American history but its a central event in large ways for the world itself. If we believe today in the 20th century, as surely we must, that popular government is the way to go, it is the way to the emancipation of the human spirit; then the Civil War established the fact that a popular government could survive, that it could overcome an internal secession movement that could destroy it. So the war becomes, in essence, it becomes a testament for the liberation of the human spirit for all time.