This is a sad day in the army

Joseph Culver Letter, April 18, 1865, Page 1

Head Qurs. Co. “A” 129th Ills.
Raleigh, N. C, April 18th 1865
My Dear Wife

Since I last wrote to you from this place we have been laying quietly in camp awaiting the result of the interview between Genls. Sherman & Johnson.1 They met yesterday at Hillsboro, & Genl. Sherman left this morning for the same place. It is generally believed that Johnson has surrendered his army but the arrangements have not been completed yet.

This is a sad day in the army. The news reached us officially this morning of the assassination and death of President Lincoln.2 We heard it rumored yesterday but did not credit it. I never saw so much sadness manifested. The whole army is silent as the grave. Groups are gathered here & there discussing the sad event. I have heard only one sentiment expressed, & it seems to be universal throughout the army. Woe to the South if this Army is compelled to pass through it again. Woe to the Rebel Army that compels us to fight longer, & Woe to the copperheads of the North. You cannot imagine what deep hatred exists against the latter class.

The army expects to be mustered out next month. We all anticipate spending the 4th of July at “Home.” There is no possible escape of Johnson’s army, & the news of Forrest & Rhoddy’s capture have reached us.3 As Johnson has command of all the rebel armies in the South, we expect their Surrender to Sherman before these negotiations close.4

Yesterday the news would have been received with wild acclamations of joy, to-day there would be no outburst at all. We have a meeting of the Brigade at 6 o’clock this evening to pay due respect to the dead. May God be merciful to us in our great affliction.

The weather is beautiful. Our meetings continue, & God is doing a great work for us. There were 10 forward Sunday night & 9 last night & numerous conversions. Over 160 have joined the church. The attendance is very large. I preached last night from Mark 16 Chap. & 16th V., & God was pleased to bless me.

All are in good health. I saw Allen Fellows this morning, Bros. Gaff & Lee yesterday. All well. I cannot find my ink & Yetter is on Picket, so you must excuse the pencil this time. My heart is too sad to write much to-day. We have recd. no mail yet. I will write soon again if we do not move. We will not remain here long as it is too far from our base of supplies. We will either go North or South. Write often. Give my love to all. Kiss Howard for me. May God bless you with His richest blessings. I remain, Very affectionately,

Your husband
J. F. Culver

  1. General Sherman, on the evening of the 17th, notified General Grant that he had just returned from a meeting with General Johnston at the Bennett House, 27 miles from Raleigh. There had been a “full and frank interchange of opinions,” with Johnston endeavoring to make terms for surrender of all Confederate forces still in the field. But to do so, he would have to discuss the subject further with Secretary of War John C. Breckinridge. Sherman was agreeable, and promised to meet again with Johnston at noon on the 18th at the same place. As he informed Grant, “we lose nothing in time, as by agreement both armies stand still and the roads are drying up, so that if I am forced to pursue we will be able to make better speed.” The one thing that both Sherman and Johnston feared was that the Confederate armies would “dissolve and fill the whole land with robbers and assassins.” O.R., Ser. I, Vol. XLVII, pt. III, p. 237. []
  2. Sherman’s headquarters on the evening of the 17th issued a special field order, announcing, “with pain and sorrow,” the assassination of President Lincoln by one “who uttered the State motto of Virginia.” To calm passions, Sherman informed his soldiers “that the great mass of the Confederate Army would scorn to sanction such acts, but he believes it the legitimate consequence of rebellion against rightful authority.” Ibid., pp. 238-39. []
  3. A powerful column led by Maj. Gen. James H. Wilson had advanced deep into Alabama. At Selma on April 2, Wilson’s horse-soldiers had routed Lt. Gen. Nathan B. Forrest’s once formidable corps. Forrest and Brig. Gen. Philip D. Roddey had narrowly escaped capture by swimming the rain-swollen Alabama River under cover of darkness. Warner, Generals in Gray, p. 262. []
  4. J.F.C. was mistaken. General Johnston commanded the Department of South Carolina, Georgia, and Florida. But by involving Secretary of War Breckinridge in the negotiations he hoped to effect the surrender and parole of the remaining Confederate armies, as well as his own. []

About Colleen Theisen

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