Tag Archive | 1865

Hunting for Mosby

april 28 - mssEC_19_334 - hunting for mosby - code 4.jpg

Hd Qrs M M Divn
RR McCaine Winchester  Apl 28th 1865
Plug Richard Harriet David for Consent Regent Parsons
can trifle of course now that Booth pimple
caught dog The Panther wishes you to try
and hunt up Elder If more money is
needed it canby had upward C H Morgan

Decoded, using cipher 4
Hd Qrs M M Divn
RR McCaine Winchester  Apl 28th 1865
Head Quarters Middle Military Division 11 AM 28th for A.T.A. Torbert Major Governor
can return of course now that Booth has been
caught ; The general wishes you to try
and hunt up Mosby If more money is
needed it can be had signature C H Morgan

Whoever was encoding the messages for General Morgan appears to have gotten a little carried away. I can understand obscuring “Mosby”, but did “has been” really need to be replaced by its arbitrary, “pimple”? And the operator made an error by using the arbitrary for Governor, Parson, instead of the second arbitrary for General, Paradise, which is the line above in the cipher. Perhaps it was like a child who has received a new toy, and wants to use it at any opportunity?

Whatever the case may be, with John Wilkes Booth dead and most of his associates in custody, the Union army continued the business of wrapping up the war. Here we have General Morgan, who was Chief of Staff to General Hancock at this point, altering the short term goal of General Torbert’s command from capturing Booth to capturing Confederate Colonel John Mosby. It is perhaps unsurprising that Mosby, the “Gray Ghost”, evaded his pursuers for another month and a half before turning himself in.


Surrender of Johnston

april 26 - mssEC_13_235 - johnston surrenders.jpg

910 am 28th  Raleigh Apl 26th 1865
Raleigh 730 pm 26th Maj Eckert Sherman & Johnston
had another interview today and Johnston has
surrendered on same terms Lee accepted .
I think the great bulk of the army will
start for Washn over-land in few days
I will be guided by circumstances in the
absence of any instruction from you . I
think we will hold on here some time
R. O’Brien Chf Opr

After the original terms that Sherman offered to Johnston were rejected, the two opposing generals met again, and on this day in 1865 Johnston surrendered all of the Confederate troops in North and South Carolina, Georgia, and Florida. This time the terms were approved (Sherman stuck exclusively to military matters).

Following the surrender, Sherman prepared to return to Washington with his troops. They would participate, with other Union Troops, in a Grand Review, which was held on the 23rd and 24th of May. Sherman and Johnston were friends following the war, and both served as pallbearers in U.S. Grant’s funeral in 1885. In fact, Johnston died of pneumonia in 1891, caught while serving as a pallbearer at Sherman’s funeral.

421255 p 45 - The_pallbearers.jpg

Seven mile funeral cortege of Genl. Grant in New York Aug. 8, 1885, U.S. Instantaneous Photographic Co., 1886, p. 45. (Huntington Digital Library, UDID 397202)

Grant Defends Sherman’s Truce

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april 24 - mssEC_13_232 - grant defends shermans truce pt 2.jpg

7 P.M.  Raleigh N.C. Apl. 24. 1865.
Raleigh Apl 24th 9 AM . Secry of War – Sir I
reached here this mng & delivered to Gen Sherman the reply
to his negotiation with Johnston He was not
surprised but rather expected their rejection – word was
immedy sent to Johnston terminating the truce & information
that civil matters could not be entertained in any
Convention between army Comdrs – Gen Sherman has been guided in
his negotiations with Johnston Entirely by what he thought
was precedent authorized by the Prest – He had before
him the terms given by me to Lees Army

& the call of the rebel legislature of Va authorized
by Gen Weitzel , as he supposed with the sanction
of the President & myself – at the time of the agreement
Gen Sherman did not know of the withdrawal of authority for the
meeting of that legislature – the moment he learned
through the papers that authority for the meeting of the
Va legislature had been withdrawn he communicated the fact
to Johnston as having bearing on the negotiations,
US Grant
Lt Genl

In early 1865, Union General William Tecumseh Sherman had gained a great deal of momentum. He and and his army rolled north from Georgia, pressuring the South as Grant was pressuring them in Virginia.  So when he met with Confederate General Joe Johnston in early April to discuss terms of surrender, he was probably feeling pretty sure of himself. A little too sure of himself, it turned out, because the deal that he hashed out with Johnston was promptly rejected, and Sherman was excoriated publicly by Secretary of War Edwin Stanton.

Sherman reacted to this public condemnation about as well as you would expect, and it is interesting to note that Grant himself carried news of the terms’ rejection to Sherman. In this telegram, Grant defends Sherman’s actions, in particular the rights that he negotiated in civil, non-military, matters. This may have kept Sherman out of hot water, but his feud with Stanton lasted for years.

Atzerodt Captured

april 20 - mssEC_12_225 - atzerodt arrested

7 P.M.  Baltimore Apl 20. 1865
Secy of War – Genl Tyler
telegraphs that Andrew Atzerodt was
captured at Monocacy station
I have directed him to
send him by first train double
ironed & under secure guard
to Ft Dix where he
will arrive this Evening &
be held subject to your
orders  Lew Wallace Maj Genl

The hunt for the conspirators in the assassination of Abraham Lincoln burned up the telegraph wires after April 14th, 1865. One of the conspirators that was sought was George Andrew Atzerodt, the conspirator chosen by John Wilkes Booth to assassinate the Vice President, Andrew Johnson. Atzerodt lost his nerve on the night of the 14th, got drunk, and never followed through with the plan. He fled to a cousin’s house in Germantown, Maryland, but left behind in the hotel room, the same hotel occupied by Vice President Johnson, weapons, including a bowie knife, and a bank book belonging to  Booth.

Atzerodt became a prime suspect and was found, in bed, early on the morning of April 20th at his cousin’s home. He was arrested by soldiers from Monocacy Junction, just north of Germantown. The were led to him in large part because Atzerodt had used his real name when checking into the hotel. Once arrested he was brought back to Washington DC and imprisoned on the naval vessel U.S.S. Montauk.

Shortly after his arrest, Atzerodt was photographed by Alexander Gardner, along with the other alleged conspirators on the Montauk and another vessel, the U.S.S. Saugus. One of the photographs from that day is pasted on page 97 of the first volume of the James E. Taylor Collection, along with the portraits of three other conspirators, Mary Surratt, Lewis Payne, and David Herold.

april 20_atzerodt_conspirators

All four were found guilty and sentenced to death. On July 7, 1865, George Andrew Atzerodt was hanged with the other three for their roles in the assassination of President Lincoln.

The Pencil-Pushers Are Going To Love This — Update!


2 PM  Richmond 130 PM May 17
1 PM 17th for Secy War = I learn
that Vance was started for Wash this
morning under guard = The rebel War
Dept records Eighty one boxes weighing ten
tons will leave this evening sig
HW Halleck

An update to the post from last December regarding the ten (10!) tons of Confederate records shipped to Washington. Those records were originally shipped to the Federal War Department, were eventually transferred to the National Archives, and now are part of Record Group 109 War Department Collection of Confederate Records. This wonderful connection was made by Lucy Barber, Deputy Executive Director, National Historical Publications & Records Commission, National Archives. It is wonderful in two ways. First, it shows the importance of primary sources; this telegram – which doesn’t appear to be in the OR – illustrates the early provenance of Record Group 109. Second, it is due the generous grant by the NHPRC, that this telegram was transcribed. Without their support Decoding the Civil War would not have got off the ground.

As stated so correctly in the original post on this telegram: Go out and hug a records manager or an archivist today.




mssEC_12_068 - hot coffee indispensible - red_mtn and JustStardust.jpg

6 P.M.
Balto Jany 22nd
5.30 P.M. For Com’y Genl – Twenty thousand men pass over
our Road in next three to five days from the west
to Washington & hot coffee is indispensable for them in
abundant quantities at Benwood, Parkersburg, Grafton, Cumberland,
Martinsburg and Sandy Hook – Some hesitation is made by
local Commissaries for want of orders – Wont you order
them at once to provide the coffee by telegraph or
detail a messenger to go on our train tomorrow A.M.
to personally instruct them – This is of vital importance
in such weather I act on behalf of Secy of War
who will sustain you in promptly meeting Emergency sig W.
P. Smith Master of Transp’n B. & O. R.R. times are lively

While parts of the U.S. are starting to be socked in by large amounts of snow, I thought it would be nice to show our readers that some cold weather staples, particularly coffee, have been considered vital for more than 150 years. It’s also interesting to see the relationship between public and private institutions, with this representative of the B. & O. Railroad seeking supplies from military commissaries. It must have been very cold in January of 1865 the Master of Transportation to invoke the specter of the Secretary of War.

Stay safe and warm, and if you need a way to kill some time, why not transcribe a few telegrams? And drink lots of coffee. 😉

Thanks to Zooniverse users red_mtn and JustStardust for bringing this telegram of great importance to our attention!


The Pencil-Pushers Are Going To Love This

mssEC_12_269 - confederate records seized - absoluteforth.jpg

2 PM  Richmond 130 PM May 17
1 PM 17th for Secy War = I learn
that Vance was started for Wash this
morning under guard = The rebel War
Dept records Eighty one boxes weighing ten
tons will leave this evening sig
HW Halleck

There are a lot of things about war that are more interesting than what happens to the paperwork of the defeated side, but I’m sure that there were (and probably still are!) plenty of people who would see ten tons of Confederate government documents as a treasure trove. Someone may have had to come up with an entirely new filing system to handle the sheer volume! Seriously, though, without the filers and arrangers of this world, we would all be lost. Go out and hug a records manager or an archivist today.

Thanks to Zooniverse user absoluteforth for pointing this telegram out to us!

Grant Losing Patience with Canby

mssEC_13_172 - grant unhappy with canby.jpg

430 P.M.  City Pt Mar. 14th 1865
14th 3 pm for Secy War, I am very much dissatisfied with Gen Canby –
he has been slow beyond excuse – I wrote to him long since
that he could not trust Granger in command , after that he
nominated him for the Command of a Corps – I wrote to him too
that he must command the troops going into the field in person –
on the 1st of March he is in New Orleans & does not say
a word about leaving there – I would like now to have
Steele , as I recommended long since in a dispatch , ad-dressed
to Gen. Halleck, put in command of the 13th Corps – as soon as Sheridan can be
spared I will want him to supercede Canby & the latter put in
command of the Dept of Gulf unless he does far better in the next few weeks
than I, now, have any reason to hope for – U S Grant
Lt Gen

photpf 2760a - Portrait_of_Maj_Gen_E_R_S_Canby.jpg

Union General Edward Canby, circa 1865 (Huntington Digital Library copy)

Edward Canby appears to have been a general of the Halleck-type, well versed in regulations and skilled as an administrator, but cautious in the field. It is unsurprising, then, that Grant was frustrated by his battlefield performance. Fortunately for Canby, the war was drawing to a close, and his ensuing performance was decent enough to maintain his post. He would later accept the surrender of Confederate Generals Richard Taylor on May 4, 1865, and Edmund Kirby Smith on May 26, 1865.

Also, Canby was a champion mean-mugger. Just look at this guy!

Why Make New Weapons When You Can Buy Them Off Deserters?

mssEC_13_176 - buying weapons from deserters.jpg

City Point Mch 19
1030 am 19th for Secy of War – Will you please
direct the Ord Dept to send money
here at once to pay for arms
brought in by deserters. a great
many are coming in now bringing their
arms with them (sig) US Grant (ahr) 12 M

With the end of the war drawing ever closer, the flow of deserters from the Confederate Army turned into a flood. Grant saw their arrival as an opportunity to bolster Union chances while providing deserters with a reason to be grateful to the U.S. government – cash. Parts of the Confederate Army were underfed and underpaid, so the chance for some fast cash may have seemed welcome.

For more information about this 19th century guns-for-cash program, see this interesting post from the Civil War Daily Gazette.

Foiling a Great Escape

mssEC_18_278 - getting ready to escape.jpg

John Horner, New York. [insertion](1)[/insertion] Washington D.C. Jan 20. ’65 [insertion]11. A.M.[/insertion]
Kasson unity I am informed that the iron
bars or grating protecting the window in cell
number plug are sawed or filed off at
top and bottom a few inches from the
mason work so that one man can easily
remove them The sent ry has been bribed
and gift prisoners now in the cell are
waiting a favorable opportunity to escape zodiac Please
have it attended to at once walrus Insanity

The 16 prisoners in cell number 1 are about to make a break for it! This telegram from Charles Dana to General Dix warns the general of an impending escape attempt using cipher number 1 (as indicated by the “(1)” at the top of the page). This is another situation where it would be great to know whether anything came of this intelligence or not. In the second phase of Decoding the Civil War we will ask volunteers to identify information such as sender, recipient, date, location, etc., which will make it much easier for us to search across the separate ledgers to find related messages.