Excerpt from The Surrender of Lee and the Assassination of Lincoln, April, 1865: An Exhibition of Historical Documents Commemorating the Seventy-Fifth Anniversary; April and May, 1940
No historical account is as vital and as realistic as that related by the men who made it. I... n these great documents we read the words written by the most important actors in the scenes they describe, written in times of great exhilaration, of depression, and of horror. This exhibition presents Abraham Lincoln, the great president who in his hour of triumph was assassinated; General Grant, the victorious. Soldier; his kindly and chivalrous opponent, Robert E. Lee; General Sherman, whose march through Georgia is among the most amazing in military annals; and other officials and officers of the Union and the Confederacy.
The first item in the exhibition is a letter written by General Lee, commander-in-chief of the Confederate forces, to his col league, General Johnston, commanding the army farther south. It gives a valuable picture of the positions and the prospects of the Confederate Army in the last phase of the war. Already the strong strategical position of the Federal Army under Grant and the barely tenable supply routes of the Confederate Army were presaging the end, less than a month off. Lee in this letter, sent March 15, 1 865, from Petersburg, frankly states the disadvantages of his present position, the possibility of the fall of Richmond, and the hope that his line of communication with the South may be kept open. Here we have a picture of the final scene of the Petersburg Campaign, which ended in Lee's surrender at Appomattox Court House on April 9, 1865.
The manoeuvers of the Federal forces in their attempts to cut Lee's line of supply are clearly set forth in a series of letters which were scrawled in action by General Grant from his field headquarters during the last two weeks of the war. One, written to President Lincoln, tells of Sheridan's great success in the country southwest of Petersburg. During the closing days of the war Lincoln established himself for part of the time at the army head quarters ar City Point, Virginia. From there he wrote a letter to Seward, his Secretary of State, forwarding the good news of Sheridan's advances. Under constant pressure Lee gave ground, and Grant was able to whittle down the comparatively small Con federate forces. He writes to General Meade on April 2nd, the day before Richmond fell, stating that his victories were continu ing. On April 5th he wrote to Sherman that, according to reports from Sheridan, Lee's army retreating to Danville was much de moralized, and ordered him to push on in the south to finish the job. The next day a telegram was sent to Sherman, the original copy which he received being in the collection, reading dramatically: We have Lee's army pressed hard, his men scatter ing and going to their homes by thousands. He is endeavoring to reach Danville where Jeff Davis and his Cabinet have gone. I shall press the pursuit to the end. And the end was coming closer.
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