Sunday, April 17, 2011

Jefferson Davis - Delusional - Joe Johnston's View - April 1865

From General Joseph Johnston's "My Negotiations" (N.A. Review August 1886)

On April 10th, the Federal army commenced its march toward Raleigh. The Confederate troops moved in the same direction. Having the advantage of a day's march, they reached Raleigh the next afternoon, when I received, by telegraph, orders to report to the President at Greensboro' without delay.

[Johnston meets with Davis on April 12th, and Davis makes wild statements that the army will soon number in the hundreds of thousands]

I reached the station there early in the morning of the 12th, and was General Beauregard's guest in the box-car in which he lodged... We found Davis with three members of his Cabinet—Messrs. Benjamin, Mallory, and Beagan... We had supposed that the President wished to obtain information from us of the military condition of that department, but it soon appeared that we were to receive, not to give information. For those present were told, with very little preface, that, in two or three weeks, the President would have in the field a larger army than the Confederacy ever had in its ranks at one time, by calling out the many thousands who had abandoned the service, and all those enrolled by the conscript bureau, who could not be brought into it by the military force used for the purpose by that bureau. It was suggested that men who had left the army when our cause was not desperate, and those who under similar circumstances could not be forced into it, would scarcely return to it, or enter it, in its present hopeless condition, upon a mere invitation. The fact that we had not arms enough for the soldiers who stood by their colors made this scheme inexpressibly wild. But no opinions were asked and we were dismissed.

Before leaving the room, General Breckenridge came as expected, .and reported that General Lee had capitulated on the 9th. After this intelligence, General Beauregard and I carefully considered the state of our affairs. We found ourselves compelled to admit that the military resources of the South were exhausted, and that the Confederacy was overthrown.

General Beauregard and I were summoned to the President's quarters next morning (the 13th); I supposed at General Breckenridge's suggestion. We were desired to compare the military condition of the Confederacy with that of the United States. As spokesman, I said that we had an army of 20,000 * infantry and artillery, and 5,000f mounted troops; against which the United States could bring three: that in Virginia of 180,000, as we were informed ; that in North Carolina of 110,000, and that in Alabama of 60,000, making odds against us of at least fifteen to one. Then we had neither money nor credit, and no arms except those in the hands of our soldiers, nor ammunition excepting that in their cartridge-boxes, nor shops to repair arms or fix ammunition; and that therefore the only effect of our keeping the field would be the devastation of our country and the ruin of the people, and this, too, without inflicting harm on the enemy. I asserted further that it would be the highest of human crimes to continue the war. General Beauregard assented decidedly to this view.

The members of the Cabinet were then desired by the President to express their opinions as to the possibility of our continuing the war. GeneralBreckenridge and Messrs. Mallory and Reagan concurred with the military officers—that we had been overcome in arms, and that it was necessary to make peace. But Mr. Benjamin entertained the opposite opinion, which he asserted in a speech enthusiastically warlike.

[Johnston then met with Sherman and signed a convention for peace that was repudiated by President Johnson. ]

In the afternoon of the 24th I received from the President, who was then in Charlotte, notice by telegraph that he had ratified the terms of pacification agreed upon by General Sherman and me on the 18th. Within an hour thereafter a courier brought me from General Hampton two communications from General Sherman—one giving notice of the rejection of the terms above mentioned by the President of the United States, and the other announcing the termination of the armistice forty-eight hours after noon of that day. These facts were communicated to the administration without delay; and I proposed that, to prevent further devastation of our country by the marching of armies, our army should be disbanded.

[Davis orders Johnston to disband the infantry and keep on fighting]

A reply dated 11 P.m., April 24th, was received early next morning. It suggested that the infantry might be disbanded then, to re-assemble at a place named. I was directed to bring with me all the cavalry, a few light field-pieces, and all other men who could be mounted on serviceable beasts. I declined to obey this order; giving as my reason, that it provided for the performance of but one of the three important duties I had to perform—securing the safety of the President and Cabinet, but not that of the people and of the army, and I suggested the immediate escape of the high civil officers under a proper escort.

The confident belief that it would be a high crime to continue the war governed me in this instance, as it had prompted me to urge the civil authorities of the South to end the war. The arrangement ordered would have put the great bodies of Union troops in motion, everywhere spreading suffering and ruin among our people, without serving the object of the President's escape as well as an escort of a few picked men would have done.

[Having rejected Davis' crazy plan, Johnston met with Sherman and made peace in N.C., S.C, Ga. and Florida]

I determined, therefore, to make another effort to bring about a pacification—within the extent of my command, at least—in the confidence that it would spread fast to the West and South. In that hope I proposed another armistice to General Sherman, and another arrangement, on the basis of the military clause in the agreement of the 18th. General Sherman sent a favorable reply very promptly; so that I was able to set out early on the 26th to meet him at Bennett's, as before, after reporting to the Administration that I was about to do so. We met at Mr. Bennett's about noon ; and, as General Sherman was anxious to restore tranquillity to the country, we soon agreed upon terms, and established peace within the limits of our commands, which were the same.

No comments: