Salisbury or Statesville, General Gillem determined to move to Greeneville. The rebel General Martin, with whom he communicated under flag of truce, demanded the rendition of the artillery captured, which, of course, could not be granted, and in return Gillem requested the rebel commander to furnish his troops with three days' rations, as by the terms of the armistice they were required to withdraw. Had it not been for this, Asheville and its garrison would have fallen into our hands. Up to that period I had been officially notified of the existence of any armistice between the forces of Generals Sherman and Johnston, and the information only reached me through my sub-commanders, Generals Wilson and Stoneman, from Macon, Ga., and Greeneville, East Tenn., almost simultaneously. The question naturally arose in my mind, whether the troops acting under my direction by virtue of General Sherman's Special Field Orders, No. 105, series of 1864, directing me to assume control of all the forces of the Military Division of the Mississippi "not absolutely in the presence of the general-in-chief," were to be bound by an armistice or agreement made at a distance of several hundred miles from where those troops were operating, and of which they were advised through an enemy then in such straightened circumstances that any ruse, honorable at least in war, was likely to be practiced by him to relieve himself from his difficult position.
Then, again, General Sherman was operating with a movable column beyond the limits of his territorial command, viz, the Military Division of the Mississippi, and far away from all direct communication with it, whereas "the troops not absolutely in the presence of the general-in-chief" were operating under special instructions, and not even in co-operation with General Sherman against Johnston's but, on the contrary, General Stoneman was dismantling the country to obstruct Lee's retreat, and General Wilson was moving independently in Georgia or co-operating with General Canby. Before I could come to any conclusion how I should proceed under the circumstances and without disrespect to my superior officer, General Sherman, Mr. Secretary Stanton telegraphed to me from Washington on the 27th of April, and through me to my sub-commanders, to disregard all orders except those coming from General Grant or myself, and to resume hostilities at once, sparing no pains to press the enemy firmly, at the same time notifying me that General Sherman's negotiations with Johnston had been disapproved. Based on that notification the following dispositions were made with a view of capturing President Davis and party, who, on the cessation of the armistice, had started south from Charlotte, N. C., with an escort variously estimated at from 500 to 2,000 picked cavalry, to endeavor to make his way to the Trans-Mississippi. General Stoneman was directed to send the brigades of Miller, Brown, and Palmer, then in Western North Carolina, to concentrate at Anderson, S. C., and about down the Savannah River to Augusta Ga., if possible, in search of the fugitives. General Gillem being absent, Colonel Palmer, Fifteenth Pennsylvania Cavalry, took command of the expedition. By rapid marching they succeeded in reaching and crossing the Savannah River in advance of Davis, and so disposed the command as to effectually cut off his retreat toward Mississippi, and forced him to alter his route toward the Atlantic coast. General Wilson, at Macon, Ga., was also notified of the action taken at Washington on General Sherman's negotiations with Johnston, and he was directed to resume hostilities at once- especially to endeavor to intercept Davis.
Scarcely were the above orders issued and in process of execution, when notification reached me of the surrender by Johnston of all the