Joe Johnston on his Negotiations with General Sherman: The Surrender that Ended the Civil War
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Joseph Johnston, the former Confederate general, provides magazine editor and future Pulitzer Prize-winning author Edward W. Bok with a brief summary of his negotiation with General William T. Sherman, the initial terms of which were rejected by President Johnson. JOSEPH E. JOHNSTON.
Autograph Letter Signed to Edward W. Bok, Washington, D.C., February 21, 1882, 2 pp., 8 x 10 in.
Washington February 21st 1882
Edward W. Bok Esqr.
When your note of the 13th inst came I was absent on business. Otherwise it would have been acknowledged promptly.
In reference to your question – I met Gen. Sherman on the 17th of May 1865, near Durham N.C. We made an armistice and agreed upon Terms of Pacification to be suggested to the two governments. They were rejected by Mr. Johnson, President of the U.S., A fact of which I was informed by Gen. Sherman on the 24th of the Month. On the 26th we had a second meeting – in which Terms of Capitulation were agreed < p. 2 > agreed upon, terminating hostilities in our geograpical [sic] commands, which happened to be co-extensive. This as we intended and expected, Terminated the war.
Hoping that you will regard what is written above, as a satisfactory answer to your question, I am
Very Truly Yours,
J. E. Johnston
On April 17, 1865, Joseph E. Johnston met with William T. Sherman, who offered the same terms for the surrender to the remaining Confederate army that Grant had agreed to with Lee eight days earlier at Appomattox. Though consistent with Lincoln’s plans, the president had been assassinated two days earlier, and anguished northerners believed he was the victim of a Confederate plot. When Andrew Johnson and Secretary of War Edwin Stanton learned of the negotiation, they promptly rejected the agreement. Ulysses S. Grant was ordered to North Carolina to take command of Sherman’s Army.
In their meeting of the May 17, 1865, General Johnston rejected Sherman’s terms for the surrender of the vestigial confederate forces, the same terms Gen. Robert E. Lee had accepted for his command five days earlier. Johnston instead hoped for the armistice to hold and the rebel forces to disperse, with the promise that they would not to take up arms again against the United States (though they would retain their weapons). Johnston also negotiated that state governments would be recognized by Washington as long as they supported the Constitution. Sherman agreed to these accommodating terms, believing they reflected Lincoln’s desire to welcome the South back into the Union’s “arms” with its dignity still intact. However, in the highly-charged, post-assassination climate, President Johnson and his cabinet rejected the two generals’ deal and threatened the destruction of all Southern forces if Johnston did not agree to the same terms as those negotiated with Lee.
The purpose of the correspondence between Confederate Generals and Edward Bok was to acquire autographs, and valuable Civil War information for “The American Pantheon,” a project Bok was clearly excited about, but that never seemed to materialize.
Joseph Eggleston Johnston (1807-1891), born in Farmville, Virginia, was one of several southern officers to resign from the Union army and join the Confederacy. He is notable for relieving Thomas J. “Stonewall” Jackson of command at Harper’s Ferry and organizing the Army of Shenandoah. His rank beneath younger officers caused animosity between Johnston and Jefferson Davis, who refused to promote him to higher status. Johnston’s frequent retreats, including at Vicksburg and Jackson, Mississippi led to his dismissal in 1863. He regained command in the last months of the war before surrendering near Dunham Station, NC on April 26th 1865. Post-war, Johnston was elected to Congress.
Edward William Bok (1863–1930), born in The Netherlands, immigrated to Brooklyn, N.Y. at the age of six. At 13, he became an office boy with the Western Union Telegraph Company. In 1882, he joined Henry Holt and Company, and two years later, Charles Scribner & Sons, eventually becoming advertising manager. From 1884 until 1887, Bok edited The Brooklyn Magazine. His 1920 autobiography, The Americanization of Edward Bok, won a Pulitzer Prize and the Gold Medal of the Academy of Political and Social Science.