15th Regiment Cavalry

Pennsylvania Volunteers

The Fifteenth at

General Joe Johnston's Surrender

A Memoir of Arthur O. Granger, Company C

Cartersville, Ga. 

The Stone River campaign during the last days of 1862 and the first of 1863 was a severe strain on me. I was in my seventeenth year at that time and lack of the knowledge to properly prepare my food was the cause of my being sent to the hospital to be treated for typhoid fever and some other complaints. Improperly prepared food caused more deaths than rebel bullets and in the Fifteenth, which was made up of young men, principally, the death rate from this cause was very great.

 I was a very sick boy when I was sent to Hospital No.1, at Murfreesboro. There were six of us, all desperately ill, in a small second story room, facing the square. The door to the hall was kept open for ventilation. It was a common thing to see the nurses carrying out the poor fellows who had died. They were simply wrapped in a blanket, thrown over the shoulders, with feet dangling down in front, and head behind and taken to the dead house. Even in these duties the usual care of seeing the patients were really dead was not always done, for in one of our hospitals a soldier was carried out and put in the dead room and a few hours after another was taken down and the astonished burden bearer found the one he had carried down before, sitting up and asking for his medicine. I was here six weeks before I could walk around the hall and soon after, thinking I had more strength than I really had, I started to go down stairs and out to the square in front, but the little strength I had was all gone by the time I got to the foot of the stairs and I had to sit down and rest before I could crawl back to my bunk again. This "bedstead" was made of rough boards, the size of a cot. The slats ran crosswise and were several inches apart and a single folded blanket was the mattress. Our clothes were our pillows.

I was the only one of my regiment in this hospital. Back in Nashville there had been a large detachment of unfortunates, who were in the hospitals there, but these were coming back to the regiment. Now that warmer weather had set in and the boys in camp were recovering their old spirits under the influence of the change that was taking place. The regiment was then just outside of Murfreesboro reorganizing, drilling, and doing some scout duty in which they met with good success. By the time I was fit to take my old place in its ranks, the hospital authorities discovered that I wrote a good, legible hand and detailed me for light duty of a clerical character, and when my regiment started off on the Tullahoma Campaign, I was the Chief clerk in the hospital. I filled this position for about a year till David F. How, my messmate in Company "E," received an appointment as First Lieutenant in the Tenth Missouri and was appointed on the staff of General Elliot, commanding the cavalry. He got me detailed at once as clerk at Cavalry Headquarters. Before I commenced my duties there a telegraphic order was received for me to report to General Sherman's Headquarters and I at once started for Kingston, Ga. It was only a few days after I arrived at Sherman's Headquarters that we started from Atlanta, on November 16, 1864, on his march to the sea. Several of the Anderson Cavalry were along but my duties were such that I was not thrown in contact with them. J. Geo. Henvis, of Company H, was one. Part of the time we rode a mule and may have played an important part. John Walter, of Company K, was another. At the battle of Resaca he so distinguished himself in carrying dispatches on our fourteen mile line of battle, as to meet the commendation of General Sherman who personally asked him to be his private orderly and we remained in that position till July, 1865, when he was discharged. It was Walter who took the verbal order, from General Sherman to General John A. Logan, to take charge of General McPherson's corps after that General had been killed in battle.

A staff officer generally does work of that kind but just then time was an important object. It was a question of minutes and Sherman took the best he had for a messenger. This march of Sherman's was no haphazard affair but had been carefully planned long before it was carried out. The General had posted himself as to the agricultural products and in his marches he avoided those in which cotton predominated. Corn, sweet potatoes, and pork were what he wanted, as only a small supply of provisions were in the wagons. No sooner had we started than the darkies came flocking to our camps and while many made themselves useful, as cooks, servants and teamsters, their numbers became great before we reached Savannah as to become a nuisance. Three or four days after we started, our chief signal officer, Capt. Becktel, sent up several rockets to let the other corps know where General Sherman was. The rockets were large and the best made and made a fine display. But most of our darkies had never seen any and instead of enjoying the sight, it filled them with the utmost terror. Our cook was washing dishes at the time but dropped everything and ran for the bushes, others hid in wagons and tremulously asked "what them things were? Even the mules and horses were frightened and it would not have taken much more to have gotten up a stampede.

 It was not until after we reached Savannah that I was made confidential clerk to the General. This was a most interesting position to occupy, for I was behind the scenes as it were, and knew all the movements of our army and what General Sherman expected to accomplish by the various marches of the different corps of this army, separated as they were by long distances. General Sherman was exceedingly kind and considerate to those with him and while at all times he was the superior officer, he had a flattering manner of saying nice things to you in such a way as endeared him to you. He always had a good opinion of our Regiment but the official dispatch, which we received on Jan. 21st, 1865 telling of our capture of General Hood's pontoon and wagon train, raised us still higher in his estimation. He talked to John Walter about the regiment and said "it was the best one in his department; they can ride faster, do more hard fighting and capture more wagon trains than any regiment in my command." On the march to the sea he slept on a cot but on the Carolina campaign, baggage was reduced to a minimum and there were no cots or such luxuries. There was one large tent at Headquarters for an office and that is where I slept. The records were kept in a stout chest, with folding legs and two lids, which, when opened out, made two writing tables. I have more than once wakened up at night, to find the General sitting in his night clothes at the desk, on a camp stool stretched across my feet, poring over a map by the light of a candle. Often I asked him "Can I do anything for you, General?" and his usual reply was "No, go to sleep, Granger. You need all the rest you can get." I have frequently looked out of the office tent, during the night, and seen General Sherman walking up and down in front of the camp fire, bareheaded, in his red drawers and slippers, and always smoking. The anxiety of the campaign and the great responsibility kept him from sleeping. I do not think that, on our marches, he averaged more than four hours sleep per night. He was always the last to go to bed and first to be up in the morning, and most any time in the night could be found either in the tent or at the camp fire.

In preparing orders for the next day's march, the General would study over his maps and draft out the distances to be traveled and the line of march for the two wings of the army under Howard and Slocum. I would then write out an order addressed to each of these Generals, to be signed by Colonel Dayton, Asst. Adjutant General and couriers would be dispatched with them. These orders would go down to army corps, division, brigade and regimental commanders, often not reaching the latter till long after midnight.

At Columbia, S.C. the contingent of Anderson Cavalrymen, in Sherman's army, was increased by the arrival of Joe Rue, who was a member of my old company in the regiment. Joe had been captured over a year ago, in East Tennessee, but had escaped and hid in Columbia just before our army reached there, as he had nothing to eat for several days, was overjoyed to be with friends again.

On March 15, the rebel General Rhett was captured by Sergeant Jos. W. Range, and four men of the Tenth Ohio Cavalry. This regiment had been with us in Sequatchie Valley and in the winter campaign in East Tennessee, so our feeling for them was a tender one. Range and his men were "Bummers" out for forage and scouting, when they heard the sound of firing not for off and curiosity impelled them to get nearer to see what was going on. Range's squad were dressed in an odd fashion. Only one had a complete U.S. uniform while the Sergeant had on a suit of black broadcloth, which he had picked up a day or two before. The others had the look of Confederate soldiers. As they drew near to the firing, they saw a line of rebel skirmishers engaged with skirmishers from Kilpatrick's cavalry. Back of them was the rebel line of battle. Two officers were riding at a walk from the skirmishers to the line of battle and Range said quietly to his men "Let's get them." Riding slowly, at a walk, his party intercepted the officers and gave the military salute when they met, but quietly got around the two, suddenly covered them with their revolvers, seized the bridle reins and passed them over the heads of the captured horses and galloped off with their prisoners, General Rhett and his Adjutant General. This was the general's first and last battle. He had been one of those fiery orators that had done yeoman service in bringing on the war but had kept out of harm's way. He had been "invincible in peace and invisible in war."

It was not till the 15th of April, after we had received the news of Lee's surrender, that General Joe Johnston, in our front, gave any indications that the time had come for this army to quit too. At that date a dispatch came from him, through General Kilpatrick, asking for a cessation of hostilities and a personal interview, which was arranged to take place near Durham Station on the 17th.General Sherman took his staff officers and three or four orderlies, among who was John Walter. I was the only clerk along. At General Kilpatrick's Headquarters, horses were furnished us and we rode through our lines with a flag of truce at the head of the column. General Johnston was met about four miles out from Durham Station, riding along the road with a portion of his staff and also flying a flag of truce. The two Generals shook hands with each other and rode back to the house of a Mr. Bennett, where they went into a room by themselves and talked for an hour.

Our men mingled with the rebel cavalry. They were pretty bitter and the officers haughty. The Generals arrived at no conclusion that day, as General Johnston wanted to see Secretary of War Breckenridge, again and obtain authority to include all Confederate armies in the surrender. I had good opportunity to observe Generals Johnston and Wade Hampton. They were both in full dress uniforms of gray cloth. Johnston is a full General and his badge of rank is three stars in a row, on each end of his coat collar. The stars are supposed to be silver and the outside ones are half encircled by a wreath of gold.

The next day the two Generals met again at the same place. Soon after General Johnston sent one of his staff officers back to his lines for Mr. Breckenridge, the rebel Secretary of War, Major General C.S.A., and ex-Vice President of the United States. I recognized him at once from photographs I had seen. He is a good specimen of a real Southerner. His clothes looked rather seedy but he was haughty and his manner was proud. General Sherman would only consent to see him in his character of a General officer and would not recognize him as Secretary of War. The conference lasted several hours and Breckenridge returned to the rebel lines. Terms were finally agreed upon and Sherman appeared at the doorway, bareheaded, calling "Granger." I quickly responded. He introduced me to General Johnston and told me to make two copies of the agreement and while I wrote the two commanders talked interestingly and I did so wish that I could have listened to them. The agreements being finished, they were signed by both, first by General Sherman and then by General Johnston, after which both parties returned to their respective armies and for us to wait until the agreement could be ratified by the authorities at Washington.

The Confederacy was now fast breaking up. The rebels had some hope till Lee surrendered but since that event deserters from their cause were flocking to our lines, while many of those still in arms have started a promiscuous pillage of their own people. A few days since, the Mayor of Louisburg, N.C., sent in some of the members of his council and formally surrendered that place to General Sherman and at the same time asked for a guard to protect them from rebel cavalry. On April 24, Lieutenant General Grant arrived at our Headquarters. I heard him tell Sherman that Lee had surrendered over 26,000 men; that their killed and wounded were upwards of 20,000 and that he had captured in battle some 23,000 and also said that his loss was not over 15,000 killed, wounded and missing. General Grant's special mission was to report that the agreement for the surrender of Johnston's army was repudiated by the Washington authorities. General Sherman at once notified the rebel commander and demanded the surrender of the army on the same terms as were granted General Lee by General Grant.

On April 26th Sherman & Johnston again met at Mr. Bennett's house and the surrender of his army was consummated. We had to wait for General Johnston but as soon as he arrived the two Generals went in together and, after consulting for an hour, General Schofield was called in and at the dictation of General Sherman drew up the terms of capitulation, which were the same as Grant had given General Lee. After General Sherman had written the terms and they had been read to the two chiefs, General Sherman called for me and directed that I make two copies, one for General Johnston and the other for himself. Each copy was signed by the two Generals and my share of the surrender was the pen and holder and inkstand, which I still possess. I tried to purchase from Mr. Bennett the table cover on which the writing was done but the old fellow could not be induced to part with it.

The total of officers and men surrendered was over 89,000 and at the consummation of this great event, the Fifteenth Pennsylvania Cavalry had a greater representation than any volunteer regiment in the service, for John Walker, of Company K, stood just outside he door, while I was inside writing the official copy.


(Blair Graybill has kindly granted permission to use this memoir on this web page. Requests to use this memoir for other purposes should be directed to him.)







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©  2015 Alice J. Gayley, all rights reserved