ADVANCE PLACEMENT
AMERICAN HISTORY

THE MARCH TO THE SEA AND APPOMATTOX

*While Hood destroys his own army in Tennessee, Sherman is marching from Atlanta to Savannah, burning, looting, and destroying on the way, in order to make the War so terrible that no-one will have the stomach for it any more.  On 22 December, he will capture Savannah, and offer it to Lincoln as a Christmas gift.  During the march, according to his own estimates, his men destroyed $80 million in property.

*With Atlanta burnt and Lincoln re-elected, the North has essentially won the war.  It is only a matter of time until Grant can get past the walls south of Petersburg and move on to Richmond.

*By 1865, the South will only have one outlet to the rest of the world, Wilmington, North Carolina, through which blockade-runners can still bring a few supplies.  It is defended by Fort Fisher, a vast system of walls defending a mile of coastline.  The walls are built out of sand, so they can absorb the shock of incoming artillery fire.  On 12 January 1865, the US Navy bombarded the fort, doing little damage, but coving the attack of over 3,300 Union soldiers.  This was the largest combined Army/Navy operation until WWII, and it took Fort Fisher.  Wilmington was captured not long afterwards, and the Confederacy was cut off from the rest of the world.

*In January 1865, Sherman left Savannah and moved into South Carolina.  Although they had been harsh in Georgia, foraging for food and killing any who tried to stop them, Shermanís men had a special hatred for South Carolina (and Massachusetts), blaming their radicalism for starting the war.  Everything that could be burnt in South Carolina was destroyed, including the capital, Columbia, destroyed on 17 February 1865.  By March 9th, his troops had passed out of the state into North Carolina, leaving behind a path of total destruction 100 miles wide and extending the entire length of the state.  Shermanís march is often seen as brilliant by military historians, is generally considered amazing for the speed in which it covered the swampy and river-filled terrain of South Carolinaís Low Country, was certainly seen as innovative at the time by his friends and barbaric by his enemies, and is one of the reasons the South was so slow in reconciling with the North.

*During much of this action, Sherman was opposed by Joseph Johnston, given command again of any forces he could scrape up.  In Georgia and afterward, Sherman was also harassed by Forrest and especially Wheeler.

*As the South declined, Francis Blair, one of Lincolnís advisors, unofficially offered the South a plan of peace and reunification through a joint war with Mexico.  The CS government wanted peace, but not reunification, but agreed to a meeting with Secretary of State Seward on 3 February 1865.  At the last minute, Lincoln decided to go too, and met with CS VP Alexander Stephens at Hampton Roads, Virginia aboard the US transport River Queen.  Lincoln offered an end to war if the South would accept the XIII Amendment, end hostilities, and disband the Confederate Army.  In return, Lincoln hinted that he would use his Presidential pardon to protect Confederates from imprisonment and might be able to offer $400 million in partial compensation for emancipated slaves, totalling about 15% of the value of all slaves in 1860.  The southern leaders saw this offer, based on the certainty of their defeat, as demeaning, and refused.

*In late March and early April, Grantís army outside Petersburg made several attacks against the thinly-defended lines, and succeeded in destroying much of Leeís reserve forces, in part because they were surprised while their commander, General Picket, was some ways off having a picnic lunch.  The most famous part of these attacks was the Battle of Five Forks.  Then, on 2 April, Grant attacked at almost every point along the Confederate line.  A P Hill, commander of III Corps was shot through the heart.  Unable to easily reinforce his defences, Lee was unable to continue the defence of Petersburg, and retreated during the night.  Richmond was evacuated at the same time, and parts of the city burned to keep supplies out of Yankee hands.  On 3 April, Petersburg was in Union hands.

*Lee moved west, but was soon surrounded by the US Army at Appomattox Courthouse.  Of his old Corps commanders only one remained:  Longstreet.  Jackson was long dead, A P Hill had been killed at Five Forks, and Ewell had been captured on the retreat from Richmond.  Of his great army, perhaps 28,000 remained, desertions continued every day, and he could not feed the men he had.  On 9 April, he offered to surrender to Grant.  Grant was generous in victory, allowing all Confederates to go home, to keep their horses and mules for farm work, and even let Confederate officers keep their pistols.  The surrender formally occurred on 12 April in the home of Wilmer McLean, who had also lived at Manassas, and let Beauregard use his house as headquarters in 1861.
*Johnston would surrender to Sherman on 29 April, and got terms at least as easy as those Grant gave Lee.

*26 April, the date of Johnstonís surrender of the last major Confederate army, is celebrated as Confederate Memorial Day in several southern states to this day.  Both Carolinas celebrate it on 10 May, the date Jefferson Davis was captured by the US Army, others, including Tennessee, on 3 June, Davisís Birthday.  Virginia celebrates on the last Monday of May, and Texas has Confederate Heroes day on 19 January, Robert E. Leeís birthday.

*With Johnstonís surrender, the war would essentially be over, although some fighting would continue into May, and the last Confederate unit, CSS Shenandoah, would surrender on 6 November, 1865, after sailing all the way around the world and ending up in Liverpool.

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This page last updated 7 December, 2003.