Their Last Full Measure: The Final Days of the Civil War
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As the Confederacy crumbled under the Union army's relentless "hammering," Federal armies marched on the Rebels' remaining bastions in Alabama, the Carolinas, and Virginia. General William T. Sherman's battle-hardened army conducted a punitive campaign against the seat of the Rebellion, South Carolina, while General-in-Chief Ulysses S. Grant sought to break the months-long siege at Petersburg, defended by Robert E. Lee's starving Army of Northern Virginia. In Richmond, Confederate President Jefferson Davis struggled to hold together his unraveling nation while simultaneously sanctioning diplomatic overtures to bid for peace. Meanwhile, President Abraham Lincoln took steps to end slavery in the United States forever.
Their Last Full Measure relates these thrilling events, which followed one on the heels of another, from the battles ending the Petersburg siege and forcing Lee's surrender at Appomattox to the destruction of South Carolina's capital, the assassination of Lincoln, and the intensive manhunt for his killer. The fast-paced narrative braids the disparate events into a compelling account that includes powerful armies; leaders civil and military, flawed and splendid; and ordinary people, black and white, struggling to survive in the war's wreckage.
property,” he wrote to General Quincy Gilmore, commander of the Department of the South in Charleston.50 Although even the New York Tribune had accurately predicted that Sherman would march to Goldsboro, Johnston was still unsure of his destination when Sherman left Fayetteville on March 15. Would he march north to Raleigh, or northeast to Goldsboro? Johnston stuck to his decision to cover both possibilities by making Smithfield, midway between Raleigh and Goldsboro, the rendezvous point for his
chore such as fetching water into a terrifying footrace. “We have an indefinable dread, our nerves subjected to a continued strain which we know cannot end till the war ends, or we are wiped out,” wrote a Rhode Island officer. Soldiers who cracked under the tension were sent to quiet “convalescent camps.”15 ß Far from the fighting, Northern citizens were more optimistic about victory than they had ever been. “Much has been done toward destroying the rebellion in these last twelve months. It is
another passenger.” Porter said he could find room, but Lincoln was adamant. The president, the admiral replied to Seward, “did not want any of his Cabinet down there to contest the views he had formed in regard to [ending the war], nor to try to turn him from his plans.” Vice President Andrew Johnson and Preston King, the former New York senator, arrived uninvited on the Malvern, wanting to pay their respects to the president. “I won’t see either of them,” Lincoln told Admiral Porter. “Send them
available Confederate cavalry units in Richmond and Petersburg and to strike Sheridan’s Cavalry Corps at the Five Forks crossroad or at Dinwiddie to preempt its lunge toward the railroad. The Rebel mounted force, however, mustered just 5,500 troopers on worn-out horses. They were armed with muzzle-loaded carbines and a medley of captured weapons, no match for Sheridan’s 13,000 mounted men—including additional Army of the James troopers—and their Spencer repeaters. Longstreet proposed a novel if
imperfect solution: converting George Pickett’s First Corps infantry division, now in reserve, into a mobile force that would operate with the Rebel cavalry. The combined task force, which also included two brigades from General Bushrod Johnson’s division, totaled 10,600 men, with a six-gun battery commanded by Colonel William Pegram. The task force rendezvoused at Five Forks on March 30, the day Sheridan convinced Grant to “go on” despite the rain and mud.127 On the 31st Bushrod Johnson’s