Appomattox to Red River Twilight Comes to the Trans-Mississippi and The End of the Civil War in Shreveport

Arthur R. Carmody, Jr.

Northwest Louisiana Civil War Roundtable
Barksdale Officers Club
December 19, 1995

Arthur R. Carmody, Jr.

APPOMATTOX TO RED RIVER

Twilight Comes to the Trans-Mississippi and
The End of the Civil War in Shreveport

This paper paints with a broad brush, for it covers the final days of the War between the States in the capitol cities of Richmond and Shreveport, including the attempt by Confederate President Jefferson Davis to travel the 900 miles between the two in April and May of 1865. It will give emphasis to developments in and around Shreveport, as they are less known. Now to do justice to the latter, I need to tell you something of Shreveport as it was, and would become, in the war years.

By 1861 the rugged frontier town of Shreveport was a quarter century old. During the first two decades of its life it had acquired a reputation as a boisterous and often violent river town: yet, as the 1860's began, the aspirations of settlers, planters and merchants had begun to replace those of the steamboatmen, gamblers and frontiersmen.

It had a free population of 2,200 and 1,300 slaves within the city limits. By war's end, four years later, 12,000 civilians would crowd its limits, together with an equal number of soldiers. Confederate units, in division strength, were also bivouacked innearby Natchitoches and Marshall. Cotton was the foundation upon which the economy was built, with many factories and stores for the manufacture and sale of cotton gins, carriages, wagons, gun powder,bricks, saddles, shoes, tin, copperware, beer and whiskey.

Railroad charters had been issued which by 1862 were expected to link the city to Jackson, Mississippi to the east and to Texas to the west although this would not become a reality until after war's end.

The news of the fall of Fort Sumter reached Shreveport on Sunday, April 14, 1861, a cool, bright day. Two recently formed militia companies the Shreveport Greys1 and the Caddo Rifles, paraded to a mass meeting at the Gaiety Theater on Milam Street that afternoon. The theme of the gathering was that every able bodied southerner should rally to the defense of his native land. Within the week, a third company, the Shreveport Rangers, was formed and the Caddo Parish Police Jury passed a resolution appropriating $20,000 for "The assistance of our volunteer soldiers ... and for the support of their needy families."

Traditioinally, the summer months in nineteenth-century Shreveport had been leisurely. But such was not to be the case rom 1861 to 1865. There was a war to be fought; troops to be raised and the supplies of war produced and transported.

During that first summer, and indeed for the remainder of the war, life in Shreveport was relatively secure. The city would not be surrendered until after the war was over. No blue uniforms would grace its streets until July of 1865. Companies from northwest Louisiana continued to leave for the war, going both to the Army of Northern Virginia and to the Army of the Tennessee. Military units from Texas streamed through the city. Most boarded boats for New Orleans; later, after the fall of that city in April of 1862, they took the overland route to the railhead at Vicksburg.

Contributing to the excitement was the increase in trade with Texas and Mexico. Arriving almost daily were horses, wagons, cattle, corn, wheat, rice, wool, leather, and saltpeter - supplies the armies to the east needed to survive. Thanks to this commerce, which remained open all during the war, the people of Shreveport never wanted for the basic necessities.

During the fall of 1861 the safety of New Orleans, the largest city in the south, was of growing concern. Its strategic position was obvious. As the commercial, financial and transportation center of the Deep South, New Orleans was critical to the Confederacy, in general, and Shreveport, in particular. What threatened one threatened the other. A threat to New Orleans would endanger Confederate control of the Mississippi River. If New Orleans fell, Shreveport would become the logical avenue for an invasion up the Red River valley. This was to happen, but not for another two years.

An ill-prepared New Orleans fell to Admiral David Farragut on April 25, 1862. On May 1, Union troops, under the command of Benjamin Franklin Butler, occupied the city. Governor Moore would write President Davis: "This unpardonable and unparalleled outrage is nothing short of robbery," but there was nothing the authorities in Richmond could have done to prevent the advance of the union forces up the Mississippi and into the Crescent City. The fall of New Orleans was a hard blow to the Confederacy.

For Shreveport the war now entered a new and more dangerous phase. In February of 1863, Major General Edmund Kirby Smith assumed command of the Trans-Mississippi Department, replacing the elderly General Theopuhus Holmes, who was headquartered in Little Rock. A native of Florida, graduate of West Point, and veteran of the Mexican War, E. Kirby Smith had solid credentials and, most importantly, was a loyal friend of Jefferson Davis.

The Trans-Mississippi covered more than six hundred thousand square miles. When Kirby Smith assumed command, however, Missouri and the Arizona Territory were in Yankee hands, as was most of south and eastern Louisiana and a good part of north Arkansas. The  heartland of the Trans-Mississippi was east Texas, southwest Arkansas and northwest Louisiana; Shreveport was the largest city. "No bed of roses" was Kirby Smith's perceptive description of his new command.

Shreveport was not Richmond but it was an adequate city under the circumstances. It had wooden sidewalks, several theaters, gas lighted streets, pontoon bridges and ferries across the Red. The English visitor Fremantle described it in May, 1863, as "a rather decent looking place." Granted, there was congestion and confusion in Shreveport, caused by a five fold population growth but, all in all, there were far worse places to be during the Civil War.

Mutual respect generally characterized military-civilian relations in Shreveport throughout the war. The people realized that the soldiers were there to protect them and together they shared a common cause and destiny. The community also wanted to extend to its defenders the same hospitality and kindness which her own soldiers had received elsewhere, especially in Virginia.

Shortly after Kirby Smith made Shreveport the headquarters for the Trans-Mississippi, it became the capital of Louisiana as well. No effort was spared in making Louisiana's secession governor, Thomas 0. Moore, and the members of the legislature both welcome and comfortable. The Confederate Legislature of Louisiana met here in 1863, 1864 and 1865 meeting in the recently completed Caddo Parish Courthouse.

Military and civilian officials alike realized the war had entered a new and dangerous phase after the fall of Vicksburg and the Battle of Gettysburg in July of 1863. In August of that year, Kirby Smith and the governors of Louisiana, Arkansas, Texas, and Missouri met at Marshall where they discussed the future of the department in light of the new circumstances.

Shreveporters remained strong in spirit. This determination is reflected by the willingness of the townspeople to work long hours to build Fort Turnbull which encircled the city and overlooked the river. A lack of steel to forge cannons, and a desire not to become a second Vicksburg, combined to inspire an ingenious line fortifications. To create the impression that Shreveport was well protected by cannons, charred logs were mounted throughout the fort. From the river below, they looked like cannons. On an inspection of the fort, General John B. Magruder is alleged to have said, "your fort is only humbug." The name has stuck to this day.

As winter came in 1863, it was believed that the large federal army in New Orleans would "do something" and that it did. General William Tecumseh Sherman had written the commander of the Mississippi fleet, Rear Admiral David D. Porter: 

"A combined movement on Shreveport would paralyze Red River... Until the Confederacy is shaken to the center, we should not bother ourselves with attempts to reconcile people and patch up civil governments."

The conquest of Shreveport was part of Sherman's plan of shaking the Confederacy "to the center." In January, he again wrote Porter, stating "we should clear out Red River as high as Shreveport by April." It was fortunate for north Louisianans that task would be given to General Nathaniel Banks and not to Sherman.

While preparations continued for the defense of Shreveport, a gubernatorial campaign was held. For Louisiana, the state election of November, 1863, was a most unusual contest. It was quiet, uneventful and honest. No one campaigned actively. When the results were in, Brigadier General Henry Watkins Allen had been elected governor.

Allen was victorious in part because of his outstanding war record. The serious injuries he had incurred in the Battle of Baton Rouge the previous year had put him on the sideline. Douglas Southal Freeman would describe Allen as "the single greatest administrator produced by the Confederacy." His fighting spirit is reflected by these remarks to a Shreveport audience shortly before the inauguration:

Peace? Great God! Peace to Whom? Peace to you whose brothers have been slain-- whose wives and whose daughters have been basely insulted! 'Tis the voice of the murderer with bloody hands... who now proposes terms of amity to the brother of his bleeding victim! ... forbid it, Almighty God! Let there be no peace between us!

Governor Moore, and the 1861 and 1862 legislatures, had ignored the efforts being made in occupied Louisiana to establish a pro-Union state government, but the new Shreveport legislature was more outspoken promptly denouncing it as "a wicked and nefarious scheme". Besides refusing to recognize it, the legislature put the citizens of occupied Louisiana on notice that they would be responsible for any participation in such a government.

In March of 1864 Banks moved his massive command north from Baton Rouge and Opelousas, heading for Alexandria. By April of 1864, Banks, - and Porter and his gunboats were well into northwestern Louisiana. Alexandria, Natchitoches, and Grand Ecore had fallen. Shortly after capturing Grand Ecore, Banks made what was to be his fatal mistake. Shreveport was now only 50 miles away. A two days' march for the soldiers; less that a sailing day for the fleet. Inexplicably, and for no articulated reason, Banks left the river road, and the protection of his 50 gunboats, and turned inland, taking the hill road to Shreveport. Once Banks did this he experienced the usual result met by non-exceptional commanders who elect to divide their forces in the face of the enemy.

On April 7th, Banks army of 25,000 bluecoats was approaching Mansfield. Confronting him were 13,000 Confederates, under General Richard Taylor, who made the decision to turn and fight on a line just south of Mansfield. In the Union army were units from practically all of the northern states: New York, New Jersey, Massachusetts, Maine, Vermont, New Hampshire, as well as western troops from Michigan, Wisconsin and Iowa. Taylor's forces were from Missouri, Arkansas, Texas and Louisiana. Although outnumbered nearly two to one, the rebels routed the federals on April 8th. Into the evening, the Yankees retreated and regrouped. The next day, the Confederates scored a strategic victory at Pleasant Hill. A more courageous general might have tested Taylor's army one more time, but Banks. the former governor of Massachusetts and Speaker of the House, had had enough and retreated to the safety of New Orleans. Governor Allen summarized the events of April 8 and 9, saying the "insolent foe" and "his mercenary hirelings" were "hurled back in dismay on the path made desolate by their villainy."

Shreveport was saved. This area of the state was free of bluecoats. And while it could not have known it at the time, there would be no further major military actions in Louisiana. General Canby, Banks successor, was willing to let the Civil War be decided east of the Mississippi River.

There were some shortages in the Trans-Mississippi, but for the main part, food, and clothing were adequate for both soldiers and civilians. Letters survive which indicate the soldiers here were much better off than their counterparts to the east. In September, 1864, Corporal S. W. Osborne, temporarily stationed in Alexandria, reported: "We get a plenty of beef and cornbread..., and sometimes a little bacon and molasses."

But the long term situation was not good. The manpower shortage was acute, men up to age 45 were now required to serve. In September of 1864 Governor Allen became the first southern leader to publicly champion the use of blacks in the military and wrote to the Secretary of War, stating, "The time has come for us to put into the army every able-bodied negro and free black as a soldier." This would become a reality when these measures were approved by the Confederate government in Richmond early in 1865.

Throughout the winter and spring of 1865 rumors circulated in the Trans-Mississippi that General Lee might surrender. As the weeks passed and the rumors mounted, desertions increased although the rank and file remained loyal.

There was nothing Governor Allen nor General Smith could do to influence the course of the war in the Trans-Mississippi. Bothrealized that theirs was, at best, a holding operation in the West. Knowing that collapse in the East was imminent, they hoped against hope that a Confederate redoubt could be established in the West. If President Davis could cross the Mississippi, and if French support could be obtained, a Western Confederacy might be transformed from a dream to reality. Such were the straws being grasped by Confederate military and civilian leaders early in 1865.

AND NOW TO RICHMOND

April of 1865 found Richmond, Virginia, the capital of the Confederacy, set in a desolate landscape, besieged and almost encircled by a federal army of over one hundred thousand fit and ready troops. Within a few days the war would be four years old-- a war, as that term is generally understood, longer than any other in this country's history.

But, as history has shown to be true in other besieged wartime capitals, life went on although it was clear that the city, now containing over 200,000 people, must soon fall. Desertions were high; inflation was rampant. A woman wrote: "You can carry your money in a market basket and bring home your provisions in a purse."

Rumors were prevalent. The most popular was that reinforcements were on the way from Joe Johnston's army in North Carolina. (Actually , his battered army of 30,000 Confederate troops had its hands full in avoiding the conquering divisions of General Sherman, who was pressing towards the Virginia/North Carolina border.)

Jefferson Davis, at 56, the president of the Confederate states, a year younger than Lee, no longer looked "every inch the president" as he had four years earlier. He was now "pale and distraught" but was still regarded as the last hope of the Confederacy.

Those who knew Davis were well aware that the watchwords of his life were pride, duty, honor and courage; that he was steadfast in purpose, as evidenced by the fact that he had survived for so long in such dire and desperate straits.

Yet, as the end of the struggle neared, it was Lee who had become the hero and Davis was now the object of defeat and the one considered responsible for the ebb of the South's military fortunes. Lee made no secret, to those entitled to know, that it was his belief the war was lost and peace should be sought on the best terms possible. Yet he was respectful of Davis and acknowledged the latter's "remarkable faith in the possibility of still winning our independence and his unconquerable willpower." Lee, to his surprise, found Davis willing to give up Richmond if hope remained that the fight could be continued elsewhere. Before the end of March, Davis sent his family southward by train to Charlotte, North Carolina. On March 28, Lee saw what he had long feared -- the long blue columns were now moving to the southwest to attack his flank and complete the encirclement of Richmond.

Lee then informed President Davis that Richmond must be abandoned. He moved General James Longstreet from the north bank of the James River toward Pickett's thin line on the south. Longstreet was slow (although he had every excuse) as some of his rivals were to charge later that he had been in the fateful hour at Gettysburg. By April 1st the fateful blow had fallen. General Phillip Sheridan, with the largest cavalry force ever assembled before or since in North America, plus strong infantry forces, smashed Pickett's thin line at a rural village called Five Forks and turned the Confederate flank.

April 2nd was a Sunday and the situation at Petersburg was hopeless. Lee, contrary to his normal practice of getting a good night's sleep, remained up all night. As he dictated the telegram to start his little army on its last retreat, he remained calm. To a staff officer, he said:

"This is a bad business. It has happened as I told them in Richmond it would. The line has been stretched and it has broken." On that Sunday he sent a telegram to the War Department, addressed to Secretary of War John Breckenridge, which said in part: 

 

"I advise that all preparations be made for leaving Richmond tonight."

Postmaster John Regan, a bluff Texan, picked up a copy of this telegram and hurried it toward the president's mansion where he met President Davis and Frank Lubbock, his aide and a former governor of Texas, who were on their way to church. Davis acknowledged the message and walked on to St. Paul's Episcopal Church. On this Sunday, Secretary of the Navy Stephen Mallory, wrote that Davis' presence was not easily forgotten.

"[a] spare figure, his manner plain and rather reserved . . . the eyes deep-set and full, the cheekbones too high and the jaws too hollow to be handsome -- he is neat and clean-looking -- but now a very haggard, careworn and pain- drawn look."

Following the service, the president, cabinet members and other officers assembled at the War Department, ignoring the growing pandemonium in the streets. The most composed of these figures was the Secretary of State, the inscrutable Judah Benjamin of Louisiana, who strolled in jauntily, twirling his gold-handled cane, smiling around his ever-present Havana cigar, his olive complexion betraying no hint of agitation, panic or distress. Determined not to surrender, he escaped through Florida to the Bahamas, from there to England, and became in 1872 Queen Victoria's personal counsel.

Also present were Governor "Extra Billy" Smith (to distinguish~ him from General Billy Smith), Governor John Letcher, and Richmond's elderly Mayor, Joseph Mayo. Davis read the ultimate message from Lee in a calm voice, ordered the remaining government papers packed and the destruction of those that could not be moved. There was no debate on the decision to leave Richmond and the cabinet members left to prepare for their exodus. They met again at the station at 7:00 p.m. for the 140-mile journey to Danville, a small town near the North Carolina border. There were discussions of a stand somewhere in western Virginia or in the southwest. Davis referred, both then and in later years, to phantom troops still under his command. By these estimates, there were 52,000 in Georgia and Florida under various commands; 42,000 under General Richard Taylor in Mississippi and Alabama; and some 30,000 under Kirby Smith west of the Mississippi. He added to this number some 100,000 from the ranks of Lee and Johnson, contending that the south should still be able to muster 250,000 troops. This was more than enough to confirm to the iron-willed president that the war was not lost but merely entering a new phase. In truth less than 60,000 armed effectives were in the field, scattered from Georgia to Texas. As the Davis train moved toward Danville, Lee, always dangerous, was making his way west from Richmond and Petersburg to converge on Amelia Courthouse, sixty miles back up the track. Davis, on reaching Danville in midafternoon, weary though he was, established a headquarters in a residence on Main Street and then set out on an inspection tour of the nearly four-year-old entrenchments rimming the town. He was determined to do all he could to prepare for Lee's arrival.

Davis found it difficult to delegate authority, particularly in military affairs, a field in which he was most at home. At times, he interfered with operations of the War Department, even personally signing purchase orders and expense vouchers. But, in fact, his armies and navy fought with a special valor and ferocity seldom equalled. At the moment, he was a president in retreat but not a fugitive on the run. He still radiated confidence and, against all logic, held out to the experienced men of his cabinet the hope, and even the expectation, that the Confederacy would survive and somehow it would triumph.

Developments elsewhere moved at a rapid pace. General Canby had a close grip on Mobile and its defenses. General Wilson and his troops were going hard on Montgomery, where the Confederacy began, with not much to stand in his way. General Stoneman was moving fast across the Smokies to enclose Johnson for Sherman's benefit. Only Kirby Smith, from behind the Mississippi, was not under siege although he had his own share of problems.

Back now to General Lee. He shepherded his small army westward toward the valley of the Appomattox. The night of April 6th was cold with flurries of snow as Lee went ahead of Longstreet's men and moved toward Farmerville. Another day on the road and another night march.

"Keep your command together and in good spirits, General," he had told his son, Rooney, that afternoon. "Don't let them think of surrender. I will get you out of this."

"Surrender" - Lee's use of that unmentionable word showed that he knew his weary, half-starved troops were at the end of their rope.

On the following morning Lee found a triple Union line -- 10,000 men to the mile -- blocking his path on all sides and thus the McLean House, on the north bank of the Appomattox, and there the army of Northern Virginia was surrendered on April 9, 1865.

Now back to the Davis party. It was shaken by the loss of Richmond but ready to meet the challenges each new day would bring. These were among the best men in public life in the nation. They were well educated, experienced in government and devoted to their cause. They each had reach high rank through ability rather than birth. They had long worked in harness with Jefferson Davis. Postmaster General Reagan wrote that the President was the most composed figure in the group. He was "impressed with his calm and manly dignity, his devotion to the public interest and his courage."

In Danville the Office of the Treasury opened for business. (The first use of branch banking in Virginia!) On April 5th, following a Cabinet meeting, Davis issued a proclamation exhorting the people of the South to even further exertions. It concluded:

"I will never consent to abandon to the enemy one foot of the soil of any of the states of the Confederacy. Let us not despond them, my countrymen, but relying on God meet the foe with a fresh defiance."

Later on the 5th came a final report from Lee. The army was still retreating but intact.

The refugee government had become the subject of intense speculation in the northern press. While the northern public hailed the fall of Richmond as the end of the long war, Harpers Weekly cautioned that "these soldiers comprise the most desperate of men and will not relinquish the struggle until defeat"; the New York Times said that Davis was already fleeing to Mexico but, "[i]f he is caught, he should be hung."

On the evening of the 8th, the Cabinet met again in Danville. A courier brought a message from General Lee to the effect that surrender was at hand. The men around the table were shocked at this devastating news coming on the heels of the earlier positive message. Davis, after giving the messenger supper, sent him south to Lee urging that the army be kept together.

On Palm Sunday, April 9, Davis sent Lee a telegram of encouragement. But Lee's army was, as a British correspondent wrote, "surrounded -- with about every mud hole on the choked road occupied by a blazing wagon -- with artillery blasting overhead -- smoke everywhere -- exhausted men, worn out horses and mules, many simply lying down because they could go no further, exhausted, gallant men -- no rations issued for three days -- dead mules, dead horses -- dead men everywhere -- an army that could go no further."

On April 10th Davis received news of the surrender. He received the blow silently and seemed to shake it off by sheer will power only to receive the news that 6,000 Union calvary under General Stoneman were approaching his caravan from East Tennessee.

Government documents were repacked. General Johnston was told of the emergency and instructed to meet the Cabinet in Greensboro, 50 miles away. At 10:00 p.m. the troops rattled off, over worn rails, reaching Greensboro around noon on Tuesday the 11th.

Greensboro was in an uproar. A small town, removed from the war, now hosted Johnston's army, thousands of stragglers down from Lee's army in Virginia and, not the least, the Cabinet of a government almost in exile. The town reacted by going indoors, shutting the windows and locking doors. Davis and his wife finally found two small, sparse rooms in a boarding house where they remained for the five days they were there.

Johnston took the occasion to ask that he be authorized to open correspondence with Sherman regarding a truce. This proposal was rejected by President Davis out of hand. Any such effort was sure to fail, he was informed, and "its failure would have a demoralizing effect on both the troops and the people." Johnston would hold out until April 20th.

But on this fourth anniversary of Fort Sumter, Lee's men were formally stacking arms at Appomattox, just over a hundred miles away, and General James Wilson, after visiting destruction upon Selma, was now riding unopposed into Montgomery, the Confederacy's first capital. Nor was that all. Canby marched that morning into Mobile, which Maury had abandoned in the night to avoid capture; while in North Carolina some eighty miles to the east, Sherman was closing on Raleigh, whose occupation the next day would make it the ninth of the eleven seceded state capitals to feel the boots of the invader, all but Austin and Tallahassee of the original capitals.

Davis and his ministers would no longer have the railroad as a means of transportation, but would now have to depend on horses to keep ahead of the fast-riding blue coats. Now only the President and the imperturbable Benjamin seemed unconvinced that the end was at hand.

The next day, April 14th, was Good Friday; Davis spent it preparing to continue his flight southward. Others might treat for peace, not he. Nor would he leave the country. He had, when urged to escape to Mexico or the West Indies by boarding a ship off the Florida coast, "no idea whatever of leaving Confederate soil as long as there are men in uniform to fight for the cause."

Accompanied by a small band of Tennessee and Kentucky cavalry, Davis and his official family left Greensboro on the morning Lincoln died, Saturday, April 15th, all on horseback except for an ambulance occupied by Adjutant General Samuel Cooper, now seventy years of age, and Judah Benjamin, for whom a saddle was an instrument of torture.

The caravan moved over poor roads, following the route of the railroad, passing through High Point and Lexington, camping in the fields at night. On Easter Sunday, the Davis party crossed the Yadkin River and entered Salisbury. They rode on to Concord and then Charlotte, the largest town in the Carolina border regions. There they were taken in by leading citizens of the town and for the first time in a week slept in pillow beds. Here Davis saw a telegram confirming Lincoln's death on the night before. He read it twice without comment, and then passed it on saying, "Here is sad news." Later that day he said, "We have lost our best friend in the court of the enemy."

In Charlotte, where Davis attended church on April 23rd, the first Sunday after Easter and two weeks after Lee's surrender, he heard further disturbing news: of the fall of Mobile, one of the last deep-water Confederate ports, on April 12th, and the surrender of Fort Sumter two days later.

On April 26th, the Davis caravan, which included a sizeable guard brigade, crossed into South Carolina. This state, the mother of secession, greeted the band of refugees as if they were heroes rather than hunted fugitives. Every day was a triumph in stark contrast to the generally cold reception in North Carolina. Now the President's train was larger than ever and contained the nucleus in talent, governmental papers and property and money with which Davis hoped to establish the Confederacy in the West. Many years later he was to write,

"If, as now seem probable, there should be no prospect of a successful resistance east of the Mississippi, I intended them to cross to the Trans-Mississippi Department, where I believed General 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: 

  President and the imperturbable Benjamin seemed unconvinced that the end was at hand.

The next day, April 14th, was Good Friday; Davis spent it preparing to continue his flight southward. Others might treat for peace, not he. Nor would he leave the country. He had, when urged to escape to Mexico or the West Indies by boarding a ship off the Florida coast, "no idea whatever of leaving Confederate soil as long as there are men in uniform to fight for the cause."

Accompanied by a small band of Tennessee and Kentucky cavalry, Davis and his official family left Greensboro on the morning Lincoln died, Saturday, April 15th, all on horseback except for an ambulance occupied by Adjutant General Samuel Cooper, now seventy years of age, and Judah Benjamin, for whom a saddle was an instrument of torture.

The caravan moved over poor roads, following the route of the railroad, passing through High Point and Lexington, camping in the fields at night. On Easter Sunday, the Davis party crossed the Yadkin River and entered Salisbury. They rode on to Concord and then Charlotte, the largest town in the Carolina border regions. There they were taken in by leading citizens of the town and for the first time in a week slept in pillow beds. Here Davis saw a telegram confirming Lincoln's death on the night before. He read it twice without comment, and then passed it on saying, "Here is sad news." Later that day he said, "We have lost our best friend in the court of the enemy."

In Charlotte, where Davis attended church on April 23rd, the first Sunday after Easter and two weeks after Lee's surrender, he heard further disturbing news: of the fall of Mobile, one of the last deep-water Confederate ports, on April 12th, and the surrender of Fort Sumter two days later.

On April 26th, the Davis caravan, which included a sizeable guard brigade, crossed into South Carolina. This state, the mother of secession, greeted the band of refugees as if they were heroes rather than hunted fugitives. Every day was a triumph in stark contrast to the generally cold reception in North Carolina. Now the President's train was larger than ever and contained the nucleus in talent, governmental papers and property and money with which Davis hoped to establish the Confederacy in the West. Many years later he was to write,

"If, as now seem probable, there should be no prospect of a successful resistance east of the Mississippi, I intended them to cross to the Trans-Mississippi Department, where I believed General 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.'"

There was a need to avoid capture as the party now knew a manhunt was being pushed by Secretary of War Stanton who was pressing General Sherman to stop the President's flight. While Davis knew nothing of the squabble between Sherman and Stanton, the northern people were aghast as to how quickly authority had been stripped from this popular general and an unforgiving and vindictive reconstruction program was being put in place by the new administration. President Johnson joined in the chorus, urging the "halter and gallows" for Davis and "all other leading traitors". The caravan moved out the morning of May 2nd. By this time, the Union cavalry was lining the South Carolina-Georgia and capture was not far away. That week President Johnson offered cash rewards for Davis, as well as the alleged conspirators in the murder of Lincoln.

But Davis still had a dream of warfare on the Texas plains he knew so well, and in the Trans-Mississippi of Kirby Smith, his loyal lieutenant where he would not be flanked by the rivers, railroads and cities and could engage the enemy on more favorable circumstances. He felt the Confederate troops could hold out for months and years. At this time neither Davis, nor the citizenry of the north or south, could visualize that a subjugated south would be ruled for over a decade by carpetbaggers, interlopers and illiterate former slaves, all under an army of occupation. Had they known the sorrow and suffering this was to produce who was to say what further desperate steps would have been taken.

The vast Trans-Mississippi region now stretched from the Mexican border to New Orleans, north to Missouri and west to Arizona, and the Indian Territory. It included the states and territories of Texas, Louisiana, Arkansas, Missouri, Oklahoma, New Mexico and Arizona and made up a virtual empire scarcely seen by Federal troops during the war It was a country sparsely populated, still independent and defiant.

Elsewhere in the country, it was now believed that Davis's one objective was to escape to the Trans-Mississippi. United States military leaders were deeply concerned lest he escape into Mexico to organize an invasion with the aid of Emperor Maximillian's French troops, to recharge the Trans-Mississippi, regroup and fight on. This French threat was particularly ominous as it combined in one entity all of the alleged evils of the Southern Confederacy, the Pope at Rome and a foreign monarchy.

The next day, May 3rd, in a chilly rain, Davis rode out of Abbeville, still with his cavalry escort. At Vienna, South Carolina, he crossed the Savannah River and entered Georgia. At this point he had covered almost half the distance to Shreveport and the Trans-Mississippi. Surely he had the prize west of the Mississippi in his sights.

On May 3rd Davis entered Worlington, Georgia, where he was greeted as a hero.

Six days later his party made camp near Abbeville, Georgia. His wife, Varina, had joined him two days earlier.

That same afternoon, troops from Michigan and Wisconsin were in Abbeville in hot pursuit. Shortly after midnight scouts found the Confederate camp on the Abbeville Road and at 2:00 a.m. they attacked, not quite knowing what they were attacking, but correctly believing Davis was at hand. A brief fire fight followed. From his tent, Davis saw blue-clad soldiers. His adjutant, Captain Wood, told Davis he could escape during the confusion, and Jim Jones, his black servant who had followed him from Mississippi to Richmond and now to this Georgia swamp, saddled his horse. Davis, harried, picked up a raglan rain cape. (It was his wife's.) Unable to find his hat, his wife threw a shawl over his head. loyal lieutenant where he would not be flanked by the rivers, railroads and cities and could engage the enemy on more favorable circumstances. He felt the Confederate troops could hold out for months and years. At this time neither Davis, nor the citizenry of the north or south, could visualize that a subjugated south would be ruled for over a decade by carpetbaggers, interlopers and illiterate former slaves, all under an army of occupation. Had they known the sorrow and suffering this was to produce who was to say what further desperate steps would have been taken.

The vast Trans-Mississippi region now stretched from the Mexican border to New Orleans, north to Missouri and west to Arizona, and the Indian Territory. It included the states and territories of Texas, Louisiana, Arkansas, Missouri, Oklahoma, New Mexico and Arizona and made up a virtual empire scarcely seen by Federal troops during the war It was a country sparsely populated, still independent and defiant.

Elsewhere in the country, it was now believed that Davis's one objective was to escape to the Trans-Mississippi. United States military leaders were deeply concerned lest he escape into Mexico to organize an invasion with the aid of Emperor Maximillian's French troops, to recharge the Trans-Mississippi, regroup and fight on. This French threat was particularly ominous as it combined in 

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.'"

There was a need to avoid capture as the party now knew a manhunt was being pushed by Secretary of War Stanton who was pressing General Sherman to stop the President's flight. While Davis knew nothing of the squabble between Sherman and Stanton, the northern people were aghast as to how quickly authority had been stripped from this popular general and an unforgiving and vindictive reconstruction program was being put in place by the new administration. President Johnson joined in the chorus, urging the "halter and gallows" for Davis and "all other leading traitors". The caravan moved out the morning of May 2nd. By this time, the Union cavalry was lining the South Carolina-Georgia and capture was not far away. That week President Johnson offered cash rewards for Davis, as well as the alleged conspirators in the murder of Lincoln.

But Davis still had a dream of warfare on the Texas plains he knew so well, and in the Trans-Mississippi of Kirby Smith, his loyal lieutenant where he would not be flanked by the rivers, railroads and cities and could engage the enemy on more favorable circumstances. He felt the Confederate troops could hold out for months and years. At this time neither Davis, nor the citizenry of the north or south, could visualize that a subjugated south would be ruled for over a decade by carpetbaggers, interlopers and illiterate former slaves, all under an army of occupation. Had they known the sorrow and suffering this was to produce who was to say what further desperate steps would have been taken.

The vast Trans-Mississippi region now stretched from the Mexican border to New Orleans, north to Missouri and west to Arizona, and the Indian Territory. It included the states and territories of Texas, Louisiana, Arkansas, Missouri, Oklahoma, New Mexico and Arizona and made up a virtual empire scarcely seen by Federal troops during the war It was a country sparsely populated, still independent and defiant.

Elsewhere in the country, it was now believed that Davis's one objective was to escape to the Trans-Mississippi. United States military leaders were deeply concerned lest he escape into Mexico to organize an invasion with the aid of Emperor Maximillian's French troops, to recharge the Trans-Mississippi, regroup and fight on. This French threat was particularly ominous as it combined in 

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.'"

There was a need to avoid capture as the party now knew a manhunt was being pushed by Secretary of War Stanton who was pressing General Sherman to stop the President's flight. While Davis knew nothing of the squabble between Sherman and Stanton, the northern people were aghast as to how quickly authority had been stripped from this popular general and an unforgiving and vindictive reconstruction program was being put in place by the new administration. President Johnson joined in the chorus, urging the "halter and gallows" for Davis and "all other leading traitors". The caravan moved out the morning of May 2nd. By this time, the Union cavalry was lining the South Carolina-Georgia and capture was not far away. That week President Johnson offered cash rewards for Davis, as well as the alleged conspirators in the murder of Lincoln.

But Davis still had a dream of warfare on the Texas plains he knew so well, and in the Trans-Mississippi of Kirby Smith, his loyal lieutenant where he would not be flanked by the rivers, railroads and cities and could engage the enemy on more favorable circumstances. He felt the Confederate troops could hold out for months and years. At this time neither Davis, nor the citizenry of the north or south, could visualize that a subjugated south would be ruled for over a decade by carpetbaggers, interlopers and illiterate former slaves, all under an army of occupation. Had they known the sorrow and suffering this was to produce who was to say what further desperate steps would have been taken.

The vast Trans-Mississippi region now stretched from the Mexican border to New Orleans, north to Missouri and west to Arizona, and the Indian Territory. It included the states and territories of Texas, Louisiana, Arkansas, Missouri, Oklahoma, New Mexico and Arizona and made up a virtual empire scarcely seen by Federal troops during the war It was a country sparsely populated, still independent and defiant.

Elsewhere in the country, it was now believed that Davis's one objective was to escape to the Trans-Mississippi. United States military leaders were deeply concerned lest he escape into Mexico to organize an invasion with the aid of Emperor Maximillian's French troops, to recharge the Trans-Mississippi, regroup and fight on. This French threat was particularly ominous as it combined in one entity all of the alleged evils of the Southern Confederacy, the Pope at Rome and a foreign monarchy.

The next day, May 3rd, in a chilly rain, Davis rode out of Abbeville, still with his cavalry escort. At Vienna, South Carolina, he crossed the Savannah River and entered Georgia. At this point he had covered almost half the distance to Shreveport and the Trans-Mississippi. Surely he had the prize west of the Mississippi in his sights.

On May 3rd Davis entered Worlington, Georgia, where he was greeted as a hero.

Six days later his party made camp near Abbeville, Georgia. His wife, Varina, had joined him two days earlier.

That same afternoon, troops from Michigan and Wisconsin were in Abbeville in hot pursuit. Shortly after midnight scouts found the Confederate camp on the Abbeville Road and at 2:00 a.m. they attacked, not quite knowing what they were attacking, but correctly believing Davis was at hand. A brief fire fight followed. From his tent, Davis saw blue-clad soldiers. His adjutant, Captain Wood, told Davis he could escape during the confusion, and Jim Jones, his black servant who had followed him from Mississippi to Richmond and now to this Georgia swamp, saddled his horse. Davis, harried, picked up a raglan rain cape. (It was his wife's.) Unable to find his hat, his wife threw a shawl over his head. Davis started riding toward the swamp when a soldier galloped up to him, leveled his carbine and said, "Halt!" The President shouted defiance, dropped the cloak and shawl and lunged at the weapon. The trooper, a Norwegian named Bee, later wrote:

"Anybody who thinks Jeff Davis a coward should have seen him. He turned right square and came at me fast."

He was made a prisoner and languished in northern prisons for two years without the benefit of charges or a trial. Finally released, he became even more a hero with each passing year until his death in 1887.

When Richard Taylor surrendered to General Canby at Citronelle, Alabama on May 4th only Kirby Smith's command remained. General Smith had accepted the news of Lee's surrender in Richmond with resignation but still foresaw a future in which the enemy might suffer overwhelming losses that would result in more favorable terms or even a separate nation. He knew that Jefferson Davis had left the Carolinas and was headed west.

On April 23, General John Magruder, in command in Houston, had implored his corps to prepare to resist any invasion. He called upon the people of Texas to provision and supply the army, and urged Kirby Smith to adopt all means necessary to preserve domestic order. At Houston, a mass meeting resolved never to abandon the cause of Confederate independence. During the next few days, the enlisted men of the Twenty-Second Arkansas Infantry Regiment, the line officers of Churchill's Division, and the whole of Shelby's Division, reaffirmed their determination to fight on. Governor Allen announced that Louisiana would "never--never--never surrender," words almost identical to Winston Churchill's, 76 years later.

When word reached Shreveport in the third week of April that Lee had surrendered, the confidence of the people of the Trans- Mississippi was shaken. Believing now their cause to be hopeless, most had lost the will to continue to fight. Their glorious cause was now lost. Despite the realization that his army was collapsing, Kirby Smith attempted to continue the struggle. From Shreveport on April 21, he wrote:

Soldiers of the Trans-Mississippi Army: The crisis of our revolution is at hand. Great disasters have overtaken us. The Army of Northern Virginia and Our Commanders-in-Chief are prisoners of war. With you rests the hopes of our nation... I appeal to you in the name of the cause you have so heroically maintained... in the name of your bleeding Country, whose future is in your hands.

You possess the means of long resisting invasion. You have hopes of succor from abroad--protract the struggle and you will surely receive the aid of nations who already deeply sympathize with you. 

Stand by your colors--maintain you discipline-- The great resources of this Department... will secure to our Country terms, that a proud people can with honor accept, and may under the Providence of God, be the means of checking the triumph of our enemy and securing the final success of our Cause.

But even as Kirby Smith penned this message, he was becoming a general without an army. Shortly after issuing the letter to the troops, he began to receive reports of widespread desertions.

On April 26, a public meeting was held at Shreveport. All who spoke at this meeting favored continuing the war. It was promised that Jefferson Davis was on his way to Shreveport and that he was ready to continue the war.

On Saturday, April 29, Governor Allen called a special mass meeting in Shreveport. Joining the governor was, among others, General Kirby Smith. Once again, defiant speeches were the order of the day. All the speakers urged that the war be continued. While it was impossible to say what most thought as they left the gathering, at least one citizen of Shreveport was to write that "it was all whistling to keep the courage up."

C. S. Bell, a Federal scout who had allowed himself to be drafted into Confederate service, reported from Shreveport: "Mutiny and wholesale desertion was openly talked of."

At this time, Governor Murrah of Texas summoned his people to "rally around the battle-scarred and well known flag of the Confederacy and uphold your state government in its purity and integrity," and promised that "with God's blessing, it may yet be the proud privilege of Texas, the youngest of the Confederate Sisters, to redeem the cause of the Confederacy from its present perils."

Two days later, at another rally held in Shreveport, Governors Allen and Reynolds, Generals Smith, Buckner, Price, Hays, McNair and others insisted that "a little patience and perseverance" would bring triumph if only the people would "continue true to their colors". And in early May the Austin Gazette affirmed that the Confederacy's "revolution" could "never go back" as long as its people remained united and committed "to fight this war to an honorable peace".

Parsons' Texas Cavalry brigade, veterans of the 1862 New Mexico campaign, resolved "to stand by our Colors, and endure any privations, and offer any sacrifices . . . with patriotic devotion to the Standard of our country." The Galveston News asserted that the Trans-Mississippi Department was "determined to fight it out" until the Federals

"...... finally let us alone . . . To a brave, high minded man there can be no choice. To a determined, loyal people there can be but one course. Let us follow this course fearlessly and unhesitatingly." But the Department lacked the men, the material, and the money needed to wage war, and most of its citizens lacked the will to fight on.

On May 2, Kirby Smith again wrote to the Emperor of Mexico, and brought "certain views" to His Majesty's attention:

"It cannot be disguised that recent reverses of the most serious character have befallen the Confederate arms, nor can it be denied that there is a probability of still further losses to us. It may even be that it is the inscrutable design of Him who rules the destinies of nations that the day of our ultimate redemption shall be postponed . There is under my command an army of Sixty Thousand men--of these there are nine thousand Missourians, good soldiers, who have been driven from their homes and would, no doubt, upon favorable inducements . . . take service with the power so favoring them."

During the first week of May, while Davis was still moving west, Lieutenant Colonel John T. Sprague, chief of staff to General John Pope, the commander of the Federal Military Division of Missouri arrived at the mouth of the Red River under a flag of truce, carrying a dispatch for Kirby Smith. Two of Smith's staff officers steamed down to Alexandria to receive the dispatches, but Sprague insisted upon delivering them to the commanding general in person. On May 8, he was passed through the Confederate lines and conveyed by boat to Shreveport where, in the evening, he conferred with Kirby Smith. The following morning, May 9, Smith addressed a note to Pope in which he stated that "your proposition for the surrender of the troops under my command, is not such that my sense of duty and honor will permit me to accept." Because of the breakdown of communications between Shreveport and the Confederate government, Smith, hesitant to act without some semblance of civil sanction, had invited the governors to come together "to indicate such a policy as you may deem necessary to maintain with honor and success the sacred cause in which we are engaged." In response to this invitation, Governors Reynolds, Flanagin and Allen convened at Marshall on the 9th; because Governor Murrah was ill, Texas was represented by his agent, Guy M. Bryan. During the next three days, with General Smith in attendance, they hammered out a set of proposals whereby hostilities might cease and civil order be preserved without subjecting the Department to a formal surrender.

While Smith and the governors were meeting at Marshall, a number of prominent army officers held a round of clandestine talks at Shreveport. The officers -- Generals Sterling Price, Thomas Churchill, Alexander Hawthorne, Jo Shelby, and William Preston (of Magruder's corps), Colonels George Flournoy, R. H. Musser, and L.M. Lewis were all battle tested, aggressive, past chargers - they - - determined to "fight unto the end" or "at least until President Davis reaches the Department." Should Kirby Smith "prove troublesome" and attempt to capitulate, Jo Shelby was prepared "to hurl his splendid Missouri division upon Shreveport, seize the reins of government, call upon the good and the true, march at once against the enemy and attack him for courage's sake." At Price's behest, Shelby approached Buckner, now a Lieutenant General, and received from him assurances that, if Smith refused to cooperate, he would take command and "fight the issue out."

Smith finally acted on May 18. Leaving Buckner in immediate charge of affairs east of the Sabine River, he announced the removal of his own headquarters from Shreveport to Houston. Apparently he planned to rally the reliable remnant of Magruder's corps for a last-ditch stand in Texas, but, considering the mood of Magruder's men, any such expectation was hardly realistic. During the week it took Smith to travel to Houston -- he journeyed by stage rather than by rail, and stopped en route to visit and address a number of garrisons -- the army of the Trans-Mississippi simply faded away.

On the 25th, at Hempstead, Texas, Smith received from Magruder a telegram describing the dissolution of his forces, in which Magruder quite frankly admitted that he had "lost all control over them." Smith professed himself "astounded at this intelligence," and, like a commanding general who still had something to command, he insisted that Magruder compose and file "a full and immediate report of all the circumstances connected with this most unexpected and humiliating conduct on the part of the troops in your District." But no amount of inquiry, no investigations, no justifications could change the fact that Kirby Smith's army was forever gone.

And so, on the 25th of May, Generals Buckner, Price and Brent steamed down to New Orleans, conferred at length with Canby and agreed, subject to Kirby Smith's approval, to surrender the military and naval forces of the Trans-Mississippi Department. The following morning, Buckner and Canby's chief of staff, General P. J. Osterhaus, put their signatures to a "military convention" which stipulated the same terms as those given to the armies commanded by Lee, Johnson and Taylor: officers and men of the Confederate forces were to desist from all acts of war and all resistance against the United States; officers and men were to be paroled and permitted to return to their homes without molestation; and all public or military property, other than the officers' side arms, mounts, and baggage, and soldiers' horses, was to be turned over to agents of the United States army.

Kirby Smith reached Houston on May 27, only to discover that the army he claimed to command no longer existed. Smith's reaction to the news was a peculiar mixture of bureaucratic habit, public concern, and personal justification. On the 29th, acting as if the administrative machinery of his army was not in the least disturbed, he issued a special order convening "a court of inquiry.........at this place tomorrow morning at 10 o"clock a.m. to ascertain and report upon the causes and manner of the disbandment of the troops in the District of Texas, New Mexico and Arizona."

This court, of course, never convened and on June 2nd he too signed the document of surrender.

In Washington the Army of the Potomac would parade down Pennsylvania Avenue on May 23rd and the Western Army of Sherman on the following day.

One witness who was to miss the Grand Review, because last minute orders took him elsewhere was General Phil Sheridan, Chief of Calvary. On May 17th he was instructed to proceed without delay to the Trans-Mississippi and take charge of Operations to restore western Louisiana and Texas to the union.

He was being sent not only to shut down Kirby Smith, but also to show the flag to the French in Mexico. Leaving Washington on the 21st, two days before the start of the Grand Review, he learned before reaching New Orleans that there would be no glory in subduing the last outpost of the Confederacy as Kirby Smith had accepted the same terms accepted earlier by Lee, Johnston and Taylor. One who would not surrender was Jo Shelby, the staunch Missourian. When news of the Smith-Buckner surrender reached him he assembled his hardened troops on an east Texas hillside and said - "Boys, the war is over. You can go home. I for one will not. Across the Rio Grande lies Mexico. Who will follow me there?" Some three hundred of his comrades said they would and the next day they set out for the Rio Grande, picking up recruits along the way.

Others joined in: John Magruder and Sterling Price, Henry Allen and Pendleton Murrah, the governor of Texas. At Eagle Pass the column paused to weight their tattered battle flag with stones and bury it in the waters of the Rio Grande.

I will now close this paper with the words of my great grandfather, Captain Junius Newport Bragg, the 27 year old assistant surgeon of the 33rd Arkansas Regiment, a veteran of New Madrid Island No. 10, Pleasant Hill and Jenkins Ferry, one who had seen his share of combat, who was in camp near Marshall, Texas. He wrote his wife in Camden, on Sunday, April 23rd, two weeks after

Appomattox:

"I have not felt so bad since the war began. To realize that the independence of our country is gone, was a shock I was little prepared for. Well, so be it, it is God's will.

General E. K. Smith is in favor of continuing the war. The army supports him. There is an army here sufficient to worry the yankees for a long time and, if independence is beyond such, he may obtain an honorable place. When thoughts of submission come into our minds we should think of yankee subjugation and the mortification of defeat and fight on a little longer."

A month later on May 20th, still at Marshall, he wrote his last letter as a Confederate soldier. He said to his wife:

"There are 132 men, rank and file, left in the regiment. They will, of course, go as it suits them. Every one, citizen and soldier, is completely demoralized. The thing will not last much longer. All the officers are burning their papers today."

"Alas, for our country - Ruin stares in the face. I do not wish to speak of it. It is too much for me!"

On June 2, Louisiana's chief executive, Henry Watkins Allen, resigned his office and left with Shelby's Missourians bound for Mexico. His final words to his people were more in keeping with those of Robert Edward Lee that Edmund Kirby Smith:

FELLOW CITIZENS, -- I have thought it my duty to address you a few words in parting from you, perhaps forever. My administration as Governor of Louisiana closes this day. The war is over, the contest is ended, the soldiers are disbanded and gone to their homes, and now there is in Louisiana no opposition whatever to the Constitution and the laws of the United States. You who, like myself, have lost all... must begin life anew. If my voice could be heard and heeded at Washington, I would say, "Spare this distracted humanity, they have suffered enough!" 

Thus a war which had begun in the East came to an end in the West. A historian was to write: "Here . . . we may say that the sun which rose in such martial glory at Manassas, on the hills of the Potomac, sank forever in Shreveport, on the banks of the Red." And so it did.

Thank You.


This item was created by a contributor to eHistory prior to its affiliation with The Ohio State University. As such, it has not been reviewed for accuracy by the University and does not necessarily adhere to the University's scholarly standards.