This was, I believe, the last armed conflict of the war, and, though very small in comparison to its great battles, it deserves notice as having closed the long struggle . . . .
Continuing Confederate Government’s Last Days,
our selection from The Rise and Fall of the Confederate Government by Jefferson Davis published in 1881. The selection is presented in seven easy 5 minute installments.
Previously in Confederate Government’s Last Days.
Place: Macon, Georgia
Those who have endured the horrors of “reconstruction,” who have, under “carpet-bag rule,” borne insult, robbery, and imprisonment without legal warrant, can appreciate the value which would have attached to such limited measure of success.
When I left Washington, Georgia, with the small party which has been enumerated, my object was to go to the south far enough to pass below the points reported to be occupied by Federal troops, and then turn to the west, cross the Chattahoochee, and then go on to meet the forces still supposed to be in the field in Alabama. If, as now seemed probable, there should be no prospect of a successful resistance east of the Mississippi, I intended then to cross to the trans-Mississippi Department, where I believed Generals E. K. Smith and Magruder would continue to uphold our cause. That I was not mistaken in the character of these men, I extract from the order issued by General E. K. Smith to the soldiers of the trans-Mississippi Army on the 21st of April, 1865:
“Great disasters have overtaken us. The Army of Northern Virginia and our General-in-Chief are prisoners of war. With you rest the hopes of our nation, and upon you depends the fate of our people. . . . Prove to the world that your hearts have not failed in the hour of disaster. . . . Stand by your colors—maintain your discipline. The great resources of this department, its vast extent, the numbers, the discipline, and the efficiency of the army, will secure to our country terms that a proud people can with honor accept.”
General Magruder, with like heroic determination, invoked the troops and people of Texas not to despond, and pointed out their ability in the interior of that vast State to carry on the war indefinitely.
General D. H. Maury, after his memorable defense of Mobile, withdrew his forces on the 12th of April, at the last moment, and moved toward Meridian. Commodore Farrand, commanding our navy at Mobile Bay, withdrew his armed vessels and steamers up the Tombigbee River, and planted torpedoes in the Alabama below. Forrest and Maury had about eight thousand men, but these were veterans, tried in many hard engagements, and trained to the highest state of efficiency. Before Maury withdrew from Mobile, news had been received of Lee’s surrender. Taylor says the news was soon disseminated through his army, but that the men remained steadfast, and manifested a determination to maintain the honor of our aims to the last. On pages 224 and 225 of his book, he gives an account of the intelligence received of the Johnston-Sherman convention of the 18th of April, and of the meeting between Canby and himself to arrange terms for his army, and an agreement that there should be an armistice; but he says, two days after that meeting, news was received of Johnston’s surrender, and the capture of President Davis. The latter was untrue, and he does not say who communicated it, but that he was at the same time notified that the Johnston-Sherman convention had been disavowed by the United States Government, and notice given for the termination of the armistice. Under these circumstances he asked General Canby to meet him again, and on the 8th of May, two days before I was actually captured, but which he supposed had already occurred, he agreed with Canby on terms for the surrender of the land and naval forces in Mississippi and Alabama. These terms were similar to those made between Johnston and Sherman; the mounted men were to retain their horses, being their private property.
On the 26th of May, the chief of staff of General E. Kirby Smith, and the chief of staff of General Canby, at Baton Rouge, arranged similar terms for the surrender of the troops in the trans-Mississippi Department. On May 11th, after the last army east of the Mississippi had surrendered, but before Kirby Smith had entered into terms, the enemy sent an expedition from the Brazos Santiago against a little Confederate encampment some fifteen miles above. The camp was captured and burned, but, in the zeal to secure the fruits of victory, they remained so long collecting the plunder, that General J. E. Slaughter heard of the expedition, moved against it, and drove it back with considerable loss, sustaining very little injury to his command. This was, I believe, the last armed conflict of the war, and, though very small in comparison to its great battles, it deserves notice as having closed the long struggle — as it opened — with a Confederate victory.
The total number of prisoners paroled at Greensboro, North Carolina, as reported by General Schofield, was 36,817; in Georgia and Florida, as reported by General Wilson, 52,543; aggregate surrender under the capitulation of General J. E. Johnston, 89,270. How many of this last number were men who left General Johnston’s army to avoid the surrender, or were on detached service from the armies of Virginia and North Carolina, I have no means of ascertaining.
The total number in the Department of Alabama and Mississippi paroled by General Canby, under agreement with General Richard Taylor, of the 8th of May, 1865, as reported, was 42,293, to which may be added of the navy a small force—less than 150. The number surrendered by General E. Kirby Smith, commanding the trans-Mississippi Department, as reported, was 17,686. To this small dimension had General Smith’s army been reduced when he accepted the terms to which a reference has already been made. This reduction resulted from various causes, but it is believed was mainly due to the reluctance of a large part of his army to accept a parole, preferring to take whatever hazard belonged to absenting themselves without leave and continuing their character of belligerents. A few, but so far as I know very few, even went to the extent of expatriating themselves, and joined Maximilian in Mexico. Against no one as much as myself did the hostility of our victorious enemy manifest itself, but I was never willing to seek the remedy of exile, and always advised those who consulted me against that resort. The mass of our people could not go; the few who were able to do so were most needed to sustain the others in the hour of a common adversity. The example of Ireland after the Treaty of Limerick, and of Canada after its conquest by Great Britain, were instructive as to the duty of the influential men to remain and share the burden of a common disaster.
With General E. K. Smith’s surrender the Confederate flag no longer floated on the land; but one gallant sailor still unfurled it on the Pacific. Captain Waddell, commanding the Confederate cruiser Shenandoah, swept the ocean from Australia nearly to Behring’s Straits, making many captures in the Okhobak Sea and Arctic Ocean. In August, 1865, he learned from the captain of a British ship that the Confederacy, as an independent Government, had ceased to exist. With the fall of his Government his right to cruise was of course terminated; he therefore sailed for the coast of England, entered the Mersey, and on November 6, 1865, and in due form, surrendered his vessel to the British Government. She was accepted and subsequently transferred to the United States.