We Are All Americans: Civil War Retold. 1865: Peace at any cost.
Was the 1864 Election a harbinger of future history? Although Lincoln prevailed with a slim margin in the popular vote, the Electoral College was a Landslide Victory. Success on the battlefield sealed Lincoln’s re-election: The mandate to press the fight for the 13th Amendment + commitment to restore the Union. Peace at what price.
The epic March to the Sea: Sherman’s army mowed through Georgia, essentially unopposed — ravaging anything that could empower the Confederate cause. While Lee could do nothing… paralyzed at the Petersburg Siege.
Sherman’s March left a wasteland of Southern ruins and sought to weaken Confederate will, burning and looting plantations and public spaces. In doing so, he brought the war home to the Southern populace, endeavoring to break their morale and weaken their will to continue the fight. The psychological impact was devastating, as it destroyed food and forage, as well as supply lines and shelter.
While Jefferson Davis maintained the Confederate stance that “…peace is impossible without independence, and it is not to be expected that the enemy will anticipate neutrals in the recognition of that independence”.
1865 dawns favorably. Harpers Weekly portrays the jubilance of The House celebrating passage of the 13th Amendment.
1865 dawns favorably for the Union Army with the capture of Ft. Fisher — the last remaining Southern seaport on the East Coast, and left the Confederacy vulnerable to the advancing march of Sherman’s troops.
The South continues to burn as Sherman’s troops march across the Carolinas forcing the Confederates to evacuate Charleston as Columbia burns.
The Confederacy reels. More losses. More bloodshed and depleted bounty. Truce? No Ironclad agreement aboard USS River Queen, site of the Hampton Roads Peace Talks hosted by Lincoln and Secretary of State Seward. Why was the 1865 Hampton Roads Peace compromise scorned. On The Hill and by the NYTimes scorned as “no immediate danger of peace”.
Jefferson Davis finds Hampton Roads peace proposal insulting. What next? The Toll continues. Sherman’s army marches to Columbia SC, and rendered intensive disastrous ruin where the Secession movement began, inciting the War. Old Glory again flew over Fort Sumter again.
Meanwhile, in Washington DC, Lincoln delivers apowerful Inaugural Address that hints at welcoming back the South “With Malice toward None”… “to bind up the nation’s wounds…to care for him…his widow & his orphan…and lasting peace…”
Amid all the celebrations, Lincoln also began to address the topic of Reconstruction and to accept Louisiana as a model for the Southern states to rejoin the Union. However, the War festers. The Burning continues, casualties mount nearer to Richmond and Washington DC. The Siege at Petersburg becomes vulnerable to the Sherman March. Was it Lee’s last stand amid Union army determination. What will inspire surrender?
Washington DC and the Confederate capital at Richmond were within 100 miles of each other. Despite the Confederate despair…cautious times necessitated reinforcements. Union troops guarding the DC arsenal.
Spring 1865. Maneuvering amid the Virginian countryside continued. Led by General Sheridan, The Battle of Five Forks was decisive since the Confederate defeat inspired General Lee to flee the Petersburg Siege.
With Sheridan on the Western flank, Sherman coming up from the South to the rear, and Grant pushing the envelope at the front line, Lee had no choice but to evacuate his position at Petersburg and leave Richmond unprotected.
Onward. To Richmond…