April 30, 1864: Lincoln’s Letter to Grant


What became known as Grant’s Overland Campaign, his drive to destroy Lee’s Army by threatening Richmond, was about to begin 156 years ago.  Lincoln writes a letter to Grant expressing full confidence in him.  Lincoln has often intervened in military matters over the years, maddened by Generals he perceived as being unwilling to fight.  Lincoln knows that, whatever else may occur, Grant will fight with all resources in his command.  Lincoln can now place on Grant’s shoulders the task of beating one of the great commanders in world history, Robert E. Lee.  The destiny of the country, and the Lincoln administration, is now in the hands of the failure from Galena, and his unexpected genius for war: (more…)

Published in: on April 30, 2020 at 5:30 am  Comments (2)  
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April 29, 1865: Johnson Postpones Day of Mourning For Lincoln



On April 29, 1865, President Johnson in his second Presidential Proclamation postpones the national day of mourning that he proclaimed in his first Proclamation:

By the President of the United States of America
A Proclamation




Whereas by my proclamation of the 25th instant Thursday, the 25th day of next month, was recommended as a day for special humiliation and prayer in consequence of the assassination of Abraham Lincoln, late President of the United States; but

Whereas my attention has since been called to the fact that the day aforesaid is sacred to large numbers of Christians as one of rejoicing for the ascension of the Savior:

Now, therefore, be it known that I, Andrew Johnson, President of the United States, do hereby suggest that the religious services recommended as aforesaid should be postponed until Thursday, the 1st day of June next.

In testimony whereof I have hereunto set my hand and caused the seal of the United States to be affixed.

Done at the city of Washington, this 29th day of April, A. D. 1865, and of the Independence of the United States of America the eighty-ninth.


By the President:


Acting Secretary of State. (more…)

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A Hero Turns a Hundred


My friend Art Leach turns a hundred on May 1.  A retired banker, he is one of the last surviving carrier pilots of World War II.  He flew Hellcat fighters off the Yorktown in the Pacific.  His matter of fact stories to me about the many ways pilots could die in those days that did not involve enemy action have long fascinated me.  The term hero is overused, but Art, although he would laugh at the term being applied to him, is one.  If you would like to send him a card, his address is 308 East Elk Street, Odell, Il. 60460.

Published in: on April 28, 2020 at 5:30 am  Comments Off on A Hero Turns a Hundred  
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April 26, 1865: Johnston Surrenders


Sherman and Johnston

After the rejection of the surrender terms that he had negotiated with Johnston, with Breckinridge cleverly pulling the strings, go here to read about it, a clearly irked Sherman wasted no time in carrying out his orders to arrange new surrender terms with Johnston:


Lieutenant-General U. S. GRANT, present.

GENERAL: I had the honor to receive your letter of April 21st, with inclosures, yesterday, and was well pleased that you came along, as you must have observed that I held the military control so as to adapt it to any phase the case might assume.

It is but just I should record the fact that I made my terms with General Johnston under the influence of the liberal terms you extended to the army of General Lee at Appomattox Court-House on the 9th, and the seeming policy of our Government, as evinced by the call of the Virginia Legislature and Governor back to Richmond, under yours and President Lincoln’s very eyes.

It now appears this last act was done without any consultation with you or any knowledge of Mr. Lincoln, but rather in opposition to a previous policy well considered.

I have not the least desire to interfere in the civil policy of our Government, but would shun it as something not to my liking; but occasions do arise when a prompt seizure of results is forced on military commanders not in immediate communication with the proper authority. It is probable that the terms signed by General Johnston and myself were not clear enough on the point, well understood between us, that our negotiations did not apply to any parties outside the officers and men of the Confederate armies, which could easily have been remedied.

No surrender of any army not actually at the mercy of an antagonist was ever made without “terms,” and these always define the military status of the surrendered. Thus you stipulated that the officers and men of Lee’s army should not be molested at their homes so long as they obeyed the laws at the place of their residence.

I do not wish to discuss these points involved in our recognition of the State governments in actual existence, but will merely state my conclusions, to await the solution of the future.

Such action on our part in no manner recognizes for a moment the so-called Confederate Government, or makes us liable for its debts or acts.

The laws and acts done by the several States during the period of rebellion are void, because done without the oath prescribed by our Constitution of the United States, which is a “condition precedent.”

We have a right to, use any sort of machinery to produce military results; and it is the commonest thing for military commanders to use the civil governments in actual existence as a means to an end. I do believe we could and can use the present State governments lawfully, constitutionally, and as the very best possible means to produce the object desired, viz., entire and complete submission to the lawful authority of the United States.

As to punishment for past crimes, that is for the judiciary, and can in no manner of way be disturbed by our acts; and, so far as I can, I will use my influence that rebels shall suffer all the personal punishment prescribed by law, as also the civil liabilities arising from their past acts.

What we now want is the new form of law by which common men may regain the positions of industry, so long disturbed by the war.

I now apprehend that the rebel armies will disperse; and, instead of dealing with six or seven States, we will have to deal with numberless bands of desperadoes, headed by such men as Mosby, Forrest, Red Jackson, and others, who know not and care not for danger and its consequences.

I am, with great respect, your obedient servant,

W. T. SHERMAN, Major-General commanding. (more…)

Anzac Day Under Lockdown




Something for the weekend.  The Last Post.  Today is Anzac Day.  It commemorates the landing of the New Zealand and Australian troops at Gallipoli in World War I.  Although the effort to take the Dardanelles was ultimately unsuccessful, the Anzac troops demonstrated great courage and tenacity, and the ordeal the troops underwent in this campaign has a vast meaning to the peoples of New Zealand and Australia.  The Aussies and the Kiwis will be observing the day from their drive ways due to both nations being under lockdown.





At the beginning of World War I the New Zealand and Australian citizen armies, illustrating the robust humor of both nations,  engaged in self-mockery best illustrated by this poem:

We are the ANZAC Army

The A.N.Z.A.C.

We cannot shoot, we don’t salute

What bloody good are we ?

And when we get to Ber – Lin

The Kaiser, he will say

Hoch, Hoch, Mein Gott !

What a bloody odd lot

to get six bob a day.

By the end of World War I no one was laughing at the Anzacs.  At the end of the war a quarter of the military age male population of New Zealand had been killed or wounded and Australia paid a similarly high price.  Widely regarded as among the elite shock troops of the Allies, they had fought with distinction throughout the war, and added to their reputation during World War II.   American veterans I have spoken to who have fought beside Australian and New Zealand units have uniformly told me that they could choose no better troops to have on their flank in a battle.


They shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old;
Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn.
At the going down of the sun and in the morning
We will remember them.

Laurence Binyon


Published in: on April 25, 2020 at 5:30 am  Comments (1)  

April 24, 1862: Farragut Runs Past the New Orleans Forts

The largest city of the Confederacy, New Orleans also controlled all shipment from the Mississippi and into the Mississppi.  Even a cursory look at a map would indicate that New Orleans was a crucial city for the Confederacy and a crucial target for the Union.  In early 1862 the Union assembled a force to take this prize:  18,000 soldiers commanded by Major General Benjamin Butler, and a naval armada under Flag Captain David G. Farragut, 6o years old, but possessed of energy that few men in their twenties possess, and a veteran of over half a century of service in the Navy.

In Mid-March Farragut began moving his fleet into the mouth of the Mississippi.  The approach to New Orleans up the Mississippi was guarded by two Confederate forts:  Jackson on the west bank and Saint Philip on the east bank.    The Confederate defenses were aided on the river by three ironclads:  the CSS Manassas, the CSS Mississippi, and the CSS Louisiana, backed up by an improvised fleet of converted merchant vessels, gunboats and rams, none of which stood any chance against the might of the Union fleet.  If Farragut’s force was going to be stopped, it would have to be by the forts.

From April 18-April 23 the forts were bombarded by 26 mortar schooners under the command of Farragut’s foster brother Captain David Porter, with whom Farragut had an uneasy relationship.  Porter had used his influence in Washington to require Farragut to give him the chance to reduce the forts by bombardment.  Farragut was sceptical and he was right.  Although the bombardment was fierce, the forts remained in action.  On the 24th, Farragut successfully had his ships run past the forts, destroying the Confederate fleet in the process.  Almost defenseless New Orleans surrendered to the fleet after three days of negotiation on April 29.  Butler’s army took the forts bloodlessly on the 29th, aided by a mutiny of the Confederate troops at Fort Jackson.  The richest strategic prize of the War fell to the Union swiftly, and with amazingly few casualties.  Farragut was promoted to Rear Admiral for this feat, the first admiral in US history.  The Union took a large step to victory with the fall of the Crescent City.

Here is Farragut’s report dated May 6, 1862 to Secretary of the Navy Gideon Welles, detailing the running of the forts on April 24, 1862, and the capture of New Orleans on April 29. (more…)

Published in: on April 24, 2020 at 5:30 am  Comments (1)  
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Last Civil War Pensioner

One hundred and fifty-five years since the guns of the Civil War fell silent, one Civil War pension is still being paid.  Irene Triplett is the 89 year old mentally disabled daughter of Union veteran Moses Triplet, who passed away in 1938.  (Moses was also a Confederate veteran, having deserted from the Confederate Army just before Gettysburg.)  She receives $73.13 per month.  Big wars cast long shadows.

Published in: on April 23, 2020 at 5:30 am  Comments Off on Last Civil War Pensioner  
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April 22, 1863: Farragut Complains of New Uniforms

Admiral Farragut

Admiral Farragut throughout his career was fairly outspoken, and on April 22, 1863 he sent a letter to Assistant Secretary of the Navy Gustavus Fox.  Among other topics, Farragut expressed his dislike for the new uniforms for naval officers.  Farragut had served in the Navy for 53 years by 1863, beginning his career as a nine-year old midshipman in 1810 and seeing combat duty in the War of 1812.  Over a half century he had seen many changes in the uniforms of the Navy, and no doubt he was simply sick of what he clearly viewed as frequent and unnecessary changes:

Pray do not let those officers at Washington be changing our uniform every week or two.  I think there should have been but one change made.  As you made a new grade it would have been but right to make a uniform of it, and I wish that uniform [for Rear Admiral] had been simply a broad stripe of lace on the cuff say an inch and a quarter wide with a narrow stripe of a quarter of an inch above it, and a little rosette with a silver star in the centre. The star is the designation of the Admiral and therefore should be visible.  The other uniforms were all well enough but this adding stripes until they reach a man’s elbow, appears to me to be a great error .   In the first place you must count the stripes to ascertain the officer’s rank, which at any distance is almost impossible, and I presume the objects of uniforms are principally for the purpose of recognizing the grades in order to pay the honor due on all official occasions.  It appears to me, however, that the object of the present change of uniform is to blend the grades as much as possible;  or, in other words, to avoid distinctions.  If such is the case, bring us down to the simple blue coat with navy buttons;  but if the grade is to be marked, let it be distinct and unmistakable.  (more…)

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I Hate Snow

Something for the weekend.  I Hate Snow.  It snowed yesterday in my slice of Central Illinois.  This is the April from Hell. Depressing, but such is life in the Midwest where I have seen “Winter” occasionally in May.


Published in: on April 18, 2020 at 3:32 am  Comments Off on I Hate Snow  
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April 17, 1865: Sherman Meets With Johnston

Sherman and Johnston



One hundred and fifty-five years ago news traveled slowly outside of areas with operating telegraphs, and so it was that news of Lincoln’s assassination reached General Sherman in North Carolina on April 17, as he was on his way to discuss with General Joseph E. Johnston the surrender of Johnston’s army.  Here is the portion of Sherman’s memoirs where he discussed what happened at the meeting:

Just as we were entering the car, the telegraph-operator, whose office was up-stairs in the depot-building, ran down to me and said that he was at that instant of time receiving a most important dispatch in cipher from Morehead City, which I ought to see. I held the train for nearly half an hour, when he returned with the message translated and written out. It was from Mr. Stanton, announcing the assassination of Mr. Lincoln, the attempt on the life of Mr. Seward and son, and a suspicion that a like fate was designed for General Grant and all the principal officers of the Government. Dreading the effect of such a message at that critical instant of time, I asked the operator if any one besides himself had seen it; he answered No! I then bade him not to reveal the contents by word or look till I came back, which I proposed to do the same afternoon. The train then started, and, as we passed Morris’s Station, General Logan, commanding the Fifteenth Corps, came into my car, and I told him I wanted to see him on my return, as I had something very important to communicate. He knew I was going to meet General Johnston, and volunteered to say that he hoped I would succeed in obtaining his surrender, as the whole army dreaded the long march to Charlotte (one hundred and seventy-five miles), already begun, but which had been interrupted by the receipt of General Johnston’s letter of the 13th. We reached Durham’s, twenty-six miles, about 10 a.m., where General Kilpatrick had a squadron of cavalry drawn up to receive me. We passed into the house in which he had his headquarters, and soon after mounted some led horses, which he had prepared for myself and staff. General Kilpatrick sent a man ahead with a white flag, followed by a small platoon, behind which we rode, and were followed by the rest of the escort. We rode up the Hillsboro’ road for about five miles, when our flag bearer discovered another coming to meet him: They met, and word was passed back to us that General Johnston was near at hand, when we rode forward and met General Johnston on horseback, riding side by side with General Wade Hampton. We shook hands, and introduced our respective attendants. I asked if there was a place convenient where we could be private, and General Johnston said he had passed a small farmhouse a short distance back, when we rode back to it together side by side, our staff-officers and escorts following. We had never met before, though we had been in the regular army together for thirteen years; but it so happened that we had never before come together. He was some twelve or more years my senior; but we knew enough of each other to be well acquainted at once. We soon reached the house of a Mr. Bennett, dismounted, and left our horses with orderlies in the road. Our officers, on foot, passed into the yard, and General Johnston and I entered the small frame-house. We asked the farmer if we could have the use of his house for a few minutes, and he and his wife withdrew into a smaller log-house, which stood close by. (more…)

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