THE LAST BATTLE OF THE
A paper read by Charles Jewett Swift at the organizing or first meeting of the Columbus Historical Society, Wednesday night, February 10th 1915.
In describing the capture of Columbus on Sunday, the 16th of April, 1865, General James H. Wilson (See notes A and B) in command of the Cavalry corps, Military Division of the Mississippi, gave his detailed report as follows:
"About 2:00 P. M. of the 16th, General Upton's advance, a part of Alexander's brigade struck the enemy's pickets on the road and drove them rapidly through Girard to the lower bridge, [Now Dillingham Street bridge] over the Chattahoochee at Columbus. Tile rebels hastily set fire to it and thereby prevented its capture. After securing a position on the lower Montgomery Road, General Upton detached a force to push around to the bridge at the factory, three miles above the city. He then made a reconnaissance in person and found the enemy strongly posted in a line of works covering all the bridges with a large number of guns in position on both sides of the river. He had already determined to move Winslow's brigade to the Opelika or Summerville road, and assault the works on that side without waiting for the arrival of the second division. I reached the head of Winslow's brigade, Fourth Division, at 4:00 o'clock, and found the troops marching to the positions assigned them by General Upton. Through an accident Winslow did not arrive at his position until after dark, but Upton proposed to make the assault in the night and coinciding with him in judgment, I ordered the attack.
"Three hundred of the Third Iowa Cavalry, Colonel Noble commanding, were dismounted, and after a slight skirmish moved forward and formed across the road under a heavy fire of artillery. The Fourth Iowa and the Tenth Missouri here held in readiness to support the assaulting party. At 8:00 P. M., just as the troops were ready, the enemy at a short distance opened a heavy fire of musketry and with a four gun battery began throwing canister and grape.
Generals Upton and Winslow in person directed the movement. The troops dashed forward and opened a withering fire from their Spencers, pushed through slashing and abatis and pressed the rebel line back to their works, supposed at first to be the main line. During all this time the rebel guns [on the other side] threw out a perfect storm of canister and grape, but without avail. General· Upton sent two companies of the Tenth Missouri, Captain McGlasson commanding, to follow up the success of the dismounted men and get possession of the bridge [14th Street]. They passed through the inner line of works and under cover of darkness, before the rebels knew it, having reached the bridge leading into Columbus. As soon as everything could be gotten up to the position occupied by the dismounted men, General Upton pushed forward again, swept away all opposition, took possession of the foot and railway bridges, and stationed guards through the city.
"Twelve hundred prisoners, 52 field guns in position for use against us, large quantities of arms and stores fell into our hands. Our loss was only twenty-four killed and wounded. Col. C. A. Lamar, of General Cobb's staff, formerly owner of the 'Wanderer' slave trader, was killed [in the street.]
"The splendid gallantry and steadiness of General Winslow and all the officers and men engaged in the night attack is worthy of the highest commendations. The rebel force was over 3,000 men. They could not believe that they had been dislodged from their strong fortifications by an attack of 300 men. When it is remembered that this operation gave us the city of Columbus, the key to Georgia, 400 miles from our starting point, and that it was conducted by cavalry without inspiration from the great events which had transpired in Virginia, it will not be Considered insignificant, although [in some degree] shorn of its importance.
"General Winslow was assigned to the command of the city. His reports will give interesting details in regard to the stores, railroads, transportation, gun-boats, armories, arsenals and workshops destroyed."
(Another bridge in Columbus similar to one fought over during the last battle)
In this report General Wilson says that the attack on Fort Tyler at West Point was at 1:30 P.M., on the same day as that at Columbus. General Tyler, its commanding officer, with eighteen men and officers were killed and twenty-eight severely wounded. The entire garrisons consisted in all of 265 men and were captured. Colonel LaGrange made the attack at West Point.
General Winslow to whom reference is made as having been put in command of the city, in his report dated Columbus, April 18th, 1865, gives a detailed list of the property destroyed under his orders. It is contained in Series One, Volume 49, Part No. 1, of Official Records, War of the Rebellion, of the Union and Confederate Armies, pages 486-7.
In these long lists of property put to the torch are the following: Presses and type of the Columbus Sun, Columbus Times, and the type, one press, etc., of the Memphis Appeal. [See Note K1]
The report concludes thus:
"There are thousands of almost pauper citizens and negroes, whose rapacity under the circumstances of our occupation, and in consequence of such destruction of property, was seemingly insatiable. These citizens and negroes formed one vast mob, which seized upon and carried off almost everything movable, whether useful or not. Four bridges over the Chattahoochee River at or near Columbus were thoroughly destroyed, one (old) by the enemy, and three (including the railroad bridge) by our troops."
President Davis was actually captured one mile and a half north of Irwinville, Ga., at dawn of May 10th, 1865, by Colonel Benj. D. Pritchard, with a detachment of seven officers and 128 men of the Fourth Michigan Regiment.
At Washington, Ga., the Confederate authorities must have heard that Atlanta was occupied by the Federals and that they could not pass that point. They halted and acted with irresolution in regard to their future course. The cavalry force, according to General Wilson, which had remained true to Mr. Davis, estimated at five brigades and probably numbering 2,000 men, "now became mutinous and declined to go any further. They were disbanded, and partially paid off in coin, which had been brought to that point in wagons." At Washington was the last semblance of a stand by the government of the confederacy. After this its chief magistrate was bent on escape from the country, [or joining the Confederates west of Alabama.]
Overcoming the defense at Columbus was no easier than getting into Selma. At Selma a stubborn fight had taken place between Forrest and Wilson, but General Forrest, the victor on many a bloody field, was so ill-prepared that there was no measure of strength between these two notable cavalry commanders. General Richard Taylor thought the fight at Ebenezer Church would have been a fair gage of battle between two big chieftians, who had met each other for the first time, in Hood's campaign of Middle Tennessee.
Montgomery had capitulated ten days after Selma without offering fight. The attacks on Columbus and West Point were along an extended line of the same engagement, and they were intended to be made about the same hour on the 16th of April. These two, places, were the keys for the crossing of the Chattahoochee and the entrance to, and reduction of Georgia along the course of its western border as bounded by the river. 'If the attack at Columbus had not been delayed as explained by General Wilson's report, it would have been very difficult to have fixed the last battle of the war in a dispute concerning subsequence as between Columbus and West Point? It so happened that West Point had fallen several hours before the night attack and entry into Columbus.
Several years ago I took the position that it was an historical and well established fact that the "last battle of the Civil War," was fought from the Alabama side of the river, and the last stand of the Confederacy under arms, as a continuity of this last battle was at the end of what is now the 14th Street bridge. It was here and at this stand that Colonel Lamar was killed, being shot from his horse in frantically trying to rally the Confederate forces.
Col. Richard Taylor, in his splendidly written book, published sooner after the war than any other work of distinguished authorship, called "Destruction and Reconstruction,'' thought the fight at Selma was the last battle. It was there that he narrowly escaped. He evidently did not know at the time he wrote, that the fight at Columbus took greater time and longer consideration for the final assault than at Selma.
The scenes enacted between the early afternoon on Sunday, the 16th of April, 1865, and which were concluded that night, at the Columbus end of the 14th Street bridge as having been the last battle of the Civil War are authenticated in the "World's Almanac." My previous articles to this end were concurred in by General Wilson himself; (See Notes C and D.) The late Major Sidney Herbert, who was a close student of the Civil War, and who wrote many articles on this subject for the Savannah News, also agreed with this conclusion. If General Richard Taylor, who was so intimately associated as a Major-General with the trans-Mississippi Department of the Confederacy and brother-in-law of President Davis in his first marriage to the daughter of General and President Zachery Taylor, placed the last battle of the war at Selma, and without knowledge at the time he wrote that events at Columbus were just as war-like as those at Selma, he too, is an approving witness that the claim is a correct one; and that nothing of a war-like nature occurred to impair the correctness of the last stand of the duly commissioned military of tile Confederacy being at the Columbus end of the 14th Street bridge, and that the closing battle scene of the war was when Col. Lamar fell from his horse--shot dead in the midst of that jumble of friend and foe, retreating and advancing, where they surged together in confused and undistinguishable mass that Sunday night at the Georgia end of the bridge.
Maj. Gen. Howell Cobb and General Buford, of Kentucky, were in command at Columbus. April 20th, 1865, General Cobb (See Note E) from his headquarters department of Tennessee and Georgia at Macon, sent to General Wilson the following:
"Greensboro, N. C., April 19th, 1865.
"Inform General commanding enemy's forces in your front that a truce for the purpose of a final settlement was agreed upon yesterday between Generals Johnston and Sherman, applicable to all forces under their commands. A message to the effect from General Sherman will be sent him as soon as practicable. The contending forces are to occupy their present position, 48 hours notice, being given in the event of the resumption of hostilities.
(Signed) "P. T. BEAUREGARD,
"Gen. 2nd in Command."
Brig. Gen. F. H. Robertson, of Texas, delivered the above dispatch. The van of Wilson's army did not stop, and General Wilson got the dispatch when he was 19 miles this side of Macon. Hostilities were never resumed, and General Johnston surrendered on the 26th of April. The truce between him and General Sherman, "was for the purpose of a final settlement." It was two days after the fall of Columbus that the truce was signed and therefore the Confederate officers and troops at Columbus were a regular Confederate army duly commissioned under orders. They fought at Columbus as such, with no more knowledge of the virtual ending of the war than the contending forces, when General Jackson won the battle of New Orleans, after the treaty of peace between Great Britain and the United States in the war of 1812.
A. J. Alexander, at Fort Union, New Mexico, Nov. 8th, 1866, who commanded the second brigade, 4th Division Cavalry Corps, Military Division of the Mississippi, in an enclosure to General Wilson, reported on results at Columbus on the 16th of April, 1865, as follows:
"Upton arrived at, assaulted and captured Columbus, 1,200 prisoners, 52 field guns in position, destroyed military stores, iron clad ram Jackson, arsenal, navy yard, foundry, paper mills, 15 locomotives, 200 cars, 100,000 bales of cotton, and an immense quantity of artillery and ammunition.
"LaGrange assaulted fort at West Point same day, captured 3 guns, 300 prisoners, burned 19 locomotives, 200 cars and large quantities of supplies."
If anything more were needed for the actual and official recognition that the engagement on the 16th of April at Columbus, was the last battle of the Civil war, it is the further assurance in the report of May 30th, 1865, by Brevet Major General, Emory Upton, who commanded the Fourth Division and led the assault on Columbus. The extracts from it are:
"The assault was made about 9:00 P. M., by six companies of the Third Iowa Cavalry, commanded by Colonel Noble [of Winslow's brigade.] By 10:00 P. M. Columbus, with its vast munitions of war, 1,500 prisoners and 24 guns was in our hands. This, which was the closing conflict of the war, was achieved with a loss of but 30 men killed and wounded." (See page 475 Official War Records, etc., Vol. 49.)
General Upton was a West Pointer. He had distinguished himself in the Virginia campaigns. He originated the system of military tactics which were adopted by the Government in 1867 and are known as "Upton's Tactics." He was attacked by an incurable disease of the head and committed suicide at the United States Military Presidio Reservation San Francisco on March 14th, 1881.
There have been occasionally some misleading prittle-prattle in the Columbus papers, which have caused the habit of erroneous thinking that 'the last battle was at Columbus," east of the Mississippi river. It is plainly to be seen that after the surrender at Appomattox and the Sherman-Johnston armistice, both the civil and military existences of the Confederacy had become decadent. General E. Kirby Smith commanded in the Trans-Mississippi Department, but when he so early knew of the aforementioned events and the pursuit of Mr. Davis, he somewhat vaingloriously kept up a show of non-yielding. On May 9th, the day before Mr. Davis was captured, he was tentatively feeling his way, and on the 26th of May he went into a convention of terms for surrender at New Orleans, General Simon B. Buckner representing him.
It seems very hard to get any official account of what took place in Texas in order to give credence to the idea that there was any war-like encounter out there later than April 16th. To the extent of any definite account, there was some time in May "a brush" between some Federals and former Confederates near the mouth of the Rio Grande, (or near the old Palo Alto battle ground.) It can't otherwise be inferred than that these were a squad of ex-Confederates, who were trying to escape into Mexico and to attach themselves to the Maximilian Empire. (See note L.) There were reasonable grounds to fear and prevent this, from overtures, so tending by General Kirby Smith himself. The situation and the time of this encounter, renders it almost a moral certainty that the body of ex-Confederates so engaged and escaping, regarded the ship of state of the Confederacy as a derelict, to which they could no longer render service or owed allegiance. They were intercepted near the Mexican border in trying to escape from the restored jurisdiction, which in Texas, was superseding the former regime of the Confederacy.
The nearest correct account that we can find of this incident is that it was about May 13th, 1865, between a small Confederate detachment of Cavalry and the Sixty-third Regiment United States Infantry, comprised of negroes. This makes it positively conclusive that they were ex-Confederates trying to escape to Mexico and were a disorganized remnant of the former Confederacy. It has already been noted that former President Davis was captured on the 10th of May, 1865, and this being so, the Confederacy was completely disintegrated for days before this affair in Texas.
Such is the only single event by which the claim at Columbus on April 16th can be questioned, and the very nature of this one makes it an absurdity and solecism to say that "the last battle of the Civil War, (East of the Mississippi) was at Columbus."
The following is inserted as credited. It bears date of the 14th of November, 1913:
"Editor Montgomery Advertiser:
"There is an incident in the Maximilian period of Mexican history apropos to the present situation in that unhappy land.
"In 1864 General Grant took up an idea that Lee and Johnston, to escape him, would cross over the Rio Grande and join Maximilian. Juarez was then President.
"Grant sent Lew Wallace to Brazos de Santiago, a post at the mouth of the Rio Grande held by the United States. All the left bank of that river was held by the~ Confederacy and all the right by Maximilian. Juarez had a small army in the mountainS, armed with bows and arrows, under General Jos. M. J. Carbajal.
"Grant sent Lew Wallace to see Juarez. The result was, the Juarez government was supplied from the United States with the arms it needed to arrest Maximilian, overthrow his government and execute him.
"At that time the United States was the only great power of the world that recognized the Juarez government. Grant instructed Wallace to sound Juarez to find out whether he would resist the entrance of the Confederate armies into Mexico, and if he would then promise to open the way to our arms.
Should any one protest against the use of the word "battle" for the engagement at Columbus, the same kind of criticism would have more force for its use against the historical acceptance of the term, in speaking of "the first battle of the Revolution on Lexington Green, at Lexington, Mass., on the 19th of April, 1775, as 'The Battle of Lexington.'" There eight Americans were killed and nine wounded out of Captain Parker's company of 60 or 70 minute-men.
They were shot down because they would not disperse, when so ordered by the British Major Pitcarn. This was followed on the same day by the battle of Concord, and where commemoratively, Ralph Waldo Emerson's "Hymn' was sung at the completion of the Battle Monument."
''By the wide bridge that arched the flood,
Their flag to April's breeze unfurled,
Here once the embattled farmers stood
And fired the shot heard around the world."
Lexington was the forecast of the long and mighty struggle for American independence, and Columbus was the closing scene of a mightier tragedy than the world had ever before witnessed. At Columbus the Union cause was triumphant, and the battle flag of the Confederate States was forever lowered. "Battle" is an expression of dignity, and its appropriateness is sanctioned at Lexington for its having been the beginning of many successful sanguinary contests before the victorious end, and the birth of a new nation to be known as the people of these United States.
By analogy also, it is a term of equal dignity and propriety in its application to the last charge and last stand at Columbus, by which the arbitrament of the sword, after a four years' trial, had the full force and effect of a final judgment.
If the sword and the torch are emblems of war's destruction, and the prefigurations of General Sherman's ideas of "Hell," the recitals of the invaders in their own language of the destruction at Columbus by fire more than overbalances the smallness of casualties to the men on either side in the assaults for the capture of the city. If, however, "battle" were strictly for an idea of magnitude, and there was no sufficient license to its use in the instance under consideration, our purpose to prove what was the military conclusion of the war between the states, is just as well demonstrated by the official report of General Upton in saying that the achievement at Columbus, and the processes for its falling into the hands of the Federal army--"was the closing conflict of the war."
Great events and the men who stood greatly for their antagonisms or agreements, have of times such strange and mysterious manifestations that we are fain to account for them in the realms of wonder thought, and beyond the sphere of the phenomena of coincidence. Col. Lamar who was shot from his horse in bravely trying to rally his men, as the ranking officer in action, was on General Cobb's staff.
The context which describes the scenes of "the closing conflict of the war," necessarily contains the picture of the tragic end to the officer in command in the last extremity, by his over-weening words, and action essaying to avert the impending collapse, thereby made himself a conspicuous target out of the darkness and from on horse back for the last shot that killed in battle a ranking Confederate officer. "The Wanderer," of which General Wilson speaks, and of Colonel Lamar as the owner, was the last slave ship to import negroes from Africa to the United States. The trial in Savannah and the seizing of the "Wanderer," for being engaged in the unlawful traffic, and contrary to the Constitution of the United States, Which prohibited, after 1808, "the importation of such persons," as made up the "Wanderer's' cargo, and the trial of John Brown for his raid into Virginia to free the slaves, were two events about the same time that caused ominous public excitement both North and South--they were the extremes of two active disturbances making for the outburst of "the irrepressible conflict."
On Good Friday, April 14th, 1865, at night in Ford's Theatre, Washington, D. C., Mr. Lincoln was mortally wounded. (See note G.) When he died on the Saturday before Columbus fell, Secretary of War, Edwin M. Stanton, stood by his bed-side and said: "And now he belongs to the ages." Emancipation was proclaimed by him on January 1st, 1863. It is noticeably strange that of the three Americans most active and conspicuous in leadership from different angles on the slavery question, neither one of them died naturally, nor survived the convulsions, which destroyed the evil that disunited the nation as long as the institution lasted.
The size and efficiency of the Federal army that was in training for a great battle at Columbus, was the same in preparedness as that which had expected to meet at Selma, "The Wizard of the Saddle," General N. B. Forrest, whose great left arm and tremendous powers in battle never knew defeat, and whose terrific strength in hand-to-hand contests and in the thickest of the fray wherever he led and assaulted the enemy has no example in history to make comparison that could magnify his genius as an implacable warrior and invincible foe.
That the resistance to Wilson's army was no greater at Columbus was inevitable from the fact that the Confederacy was worn out, exhausted and depleted everywhere else. I think the closing scene at the Columbus end of the 14th Street bridge, ought to be marked with a suitable plate or monument. It is due to history that this should be done.
In reaching there, where the last sparks from the embers of the Confederate military went out and its last battle flags were lowered in the darkness of that April Sunday night, the victors were not arduously tried, nor did they pass the ordeals of such great and imminent danger, as could have enhanced by any considerable degree, the glory of martial achievement. They would approve or participate in the ceremonies of a monument with no spirit inhospitable to the vanquished or their descendants.
Gettysburg, Chickamauga and all the big battle sites have become common meeting grounds for those who contended for the mastery 50 years ago. The last stand and the closing scene to which all these other military issues were surely tending, and where they finally ended, should also have its legends engraven on some granite from the nearby Chattahoochee wherein, for geologic periods, they have withstood the attrition of the torrential waters from the very nature of their pristine and adamantine strength.
When Mr. Lincoln was elected the second time, the slogan in the North was that "the war should be fought out to the last ditch." (See also "Under the Old Flag," page 333.) I think the People in the South also fully realized that this would be the only finality. It is the province of history to record that "the last ditch" was the Chattahoochee River; and that "the horrible epithets of war" ceased their loud and discordant articulations at the very point Where tile then wooden bridge' abutted on the soil of the most westward of the thirteen original Colonies coming from the Alabama side of that stream, famed by the verses of Lanier's interpretation, and of which his "Song of the Chattahoochee," was also prophetic of its modern industrial uses, and over which the star of Empire first made iis transit from the earliest settlements of the Atlantic seaboards, towards conquest of the great western American continent, and thence afar to the islands of the Pacific.
If we are not already a reunited people, the time will come when the Civil War must take its place as a vestige of the law of the inevitable; be regarded as the means of a permanent unity of peace and concord; and that its travails were the foreordained price of our greatest national destiny; and for the home coming to be lastingly sweet. In these views the appointed area in Columbus will stand apart as decisively historic ground. The battles and sieges towards its attainment were of such magnitude and greatness of purpose that beside them the arms and men of which Virgil sung are pigmies, in the balance And insofar as they are exceeding, they will be for the story of a greater epic than the "Siege of Troy."
If Mr. Lincoln's Gettysburg speech had the imperfect unities of time and place, it was lacking anon, and unfreed from reactionary and disappointing chances until the war was stilled and the Confederacy bereft on the Georgia side of the Chattahoochee River at Columbus. It stands for the beginning of the inspiration of Mr. B. H. Hill's celebrated apostrophe to the Union, which he spoke so soon after tile war at Athens.
He spoke it for a present tense to the times of that unreconstructed period. If it is to remain a present tense to all the ages during which the American Republic of the United States shall be the strongest surviving member in the family of nations, the identity and acceptance of the closing scene, on Sunday night, the 16th of April, 1865, will be complete, and its place as the threshold of the new era will be a central feature to some vision in retrospect, when time shall have matured Mr. Hill's words, as gems of purest rays, for a chosen emphasis to a sublime national inheritance, "We are here in the house of our fathers, our brothers, our companions, and we are here at home to stay, thank God."--"Under the Old Flag."
We have undertaken to demonstrate to the satisfaction of the most exacting critic and to the nation at large that on Sunday night, 16th of April, 1865, the life of the Confederacy went out, and took its place in History, with memories both pleasing and mournful to the soul, and that at the same hour with the expiring breath of Col. Lamar, its smoke of battle faded into "the infinite azure of the past," and that Columbus suffered her own full measure of holocausts that lighted the way of the funeral march to the Grave.
But, withal, Columbus has emerged from the desolation in which she was left, and like Job, from her vestment of sackcloth and from her heaps of ashes,' has soared on electrified luminous wings phoenix-like to Jove.
General Sherman was Major-General commanding the Military Division of the Mississippi.
The time of Wilson's raid was March 22nd to April 24th, 1865, which included the capture of Columbus. At Macon on April 20th, 1865, his command captured Generals Howell Cobb, Gustavus W. Smith, Robertson, Mercer and Mackall. During this period General Wilson was about 28 years old, and was Brevet-Major General under General Sherman, and his command was, therefore a part of the Military Division of the Mississippi. His book, "Under the Old Flag," (Appleton), contains an account of his raid. The Encyclopedia Americana, says: "James Harrison Wilson, American soldieri born near Shawnee Town, Il1., September 2nd, 1837. He was graduated from West Point in 1860, was promoted Lieutenant in 1861, and was Chief Topographical Engineer on the Port Royal Expedition. He was brevetted Major for gallant conduct at Fort Pulaski, Ga., and subsequently was aid-de-camp to General McClellan, participating in the battles of Antietam and South Mountain.
"In the campaign against Richmond and in the operations against Chattanooga and Knoxville, he was Assistant Engineer and Inspector General of the Army of Tennessee, and in 1863 was made Brigadier General of Volunteers, and Brevet-Lieutenant-Colonel of Regulars for gallantry at Chattanooga. He was brevetted Colonel for conduct at the battle of the Wilderness, and was engaged in the siege of Petersburg and in the Shenandoah campaign. In September, 1864, he was transferred to the command of the cavalry of the Mississippi Division, took part with General Thomas in Tennessee, and was conspicuous at the battles of Franklin and Nashville. In March, 1865, he made a raid into Alabama and Georgia and in twenty-eight days captured Selma, Montgomery, Columbus and Macon, taking 6,820 prisoners, among whom was Jefferson Davis. He received Brevets-Brigadier, and Major-General, and in 1866 was mustered out of the volunteer service. He was appointed Lieutenant Colonel in the regular army in that year, but resigned in 1870, and was subsequently engaged in railroad engineering and management until the outbreak of the Spanish-American war, when he was appointed Major-General of volunteers, and was assigned to command a division in Porto Rico. He commanded the First Army Corps in the occupation of Cuba and the American and British troops at the battle of the Eight Temples, in China, against the Boxers. he was retired with the rank of Brigadier-General of Regulars in 1901. In 1902 he represented the United States army at the coronation of Edward VII. He published with C. A. Dana, 'Life of General Grant.' (1868) 'Life of Andrew Alexander.' (1887) 'China, Travels and Investigations in the Middle Kingdom.' (1887-1900) 'Under the Old Flag,' two volumes (Appleton & Co.)"
[From the original published in the Enquirer-Sun of December 7th, 1913, and remarks by the editor of that paper.]
The following letter was written to Mr. Chas. J. Swift of this city by General James H. Wilson who was in charge of the Union Soldiers when the last battle of the war was fought in Columbus, April 16th, 1865. It was written by General Wilson after he had read the special article by Mr. Swift appearing in last Sunday's Enquirer-Sun. on that battle as being the last battle of the war. It will be noted that General Wilson confirms the account written by Mr. Swift:-
JAMES H. WILSON,
No. 1305 Rodney Street,
Dec. 3rd, 1913.
Charles J. Swift, Esq.,
My Dear Mr. Swift:--
I am much obliged to you for your "last writing on the 'last battle.'" The only correction I can suggest is that the night attack was suggested by me to Upton as an improvement on his plan for an afternoon attack, which had been deranged by his failure to find Winslow at the place and time we had appointed. (See Notes I and D). I may add the change was enthusiastically accepted by Upton and carried out in the masterly manner that characterized all his operations.
There seems to be no grounds left for doubting that "Columbus was the last battle of the war." It, added to Selma, was doubtless the sufficient cause and justification of the advice that Joe Johnston gave Jefferson Davis, and which culminated in Johnston's surrender to Sherman a few days later, on substantially the same terms that Lee surrendered to Grant at Appomattox.
Charles Francis Adams has always praised Lee greatly for declining to continue his resistance by guerilla warfare, but, Selma, and the destruction of stores and factories there, the knowledge of what had reached Lee, as early as April 4th, made it impossible to carry on any kind of sustained war, thereafter. If there had remained the slightest doubt of that, it was removed by the capture of Columbus and Macon and the destruction on the 16th and 19th of April, respectively. You will find all these matters touched upon in "Under the Old Flag," (Reference to General Wilson's book recently published by D. Appleton & Co.) which is doubtless in your city library. If you conclude to make a magazine article out of what you have written, I shall be glad to look over your manuscript proof before it is finally published.
Wishing you continued success, I am
Yours very sincerely,
James H. Wilson.
General Wilson in his letter of January 7th, 1915, writes: "I notice, since the death of General Winslow, in one or two of his writings, he claims to have made the suggestion of the night attack. While my recollection does not sustain this claim, it is perfectly certain that 'the night attack' could not have been made except by my authority and direction."
"General Cobb was the ranking officer of the day, but the direct command of the troops in the field was assigned to Col. Leon Von Zinken, whose coolness and intrepidity were conspicuously displayed and acknowledged as well by the Federals as the Confederates.'' (See Martin's History of Columbus, 1827-1865, p 180.)
After the Convention for an armistice between Generals Sherman and Johnston, and before the final surrender, they were both most afraid of remnants of the Confederates forming marauding parties, or attempting to get into Mexico, instead of surrendering.
There was no fighting in the Carolinas later than about the 10th of April, 1865, which took place in the vicinity of Florence and Sumpterville, S. C. They say that eight Federals were killed and twelve Confederates. (See Vol. XLVII, Official War Records, p. 236-7.)
The attack which mortally wounded Mr. Lincoln was about the same actual time of night that Col. Lamar was shot from his horse on the Sunday night following.
Col. Lamar is buried in Laurel Grove Cemetery, Savannah, Ga. The inscription on his monument reads: "Chas. A. L. Lamar. Born in Savannah, April 1st, 1824. Killed during the fight at Columbus, April 16th, 1865." His wife, Caroline Agnes, survived him until 1902.
[Copy of the Original published in the Enquirer-Sun, February 19th, 1914.]
2 Rue de Madrid,
January 23rd, 1914
Chas. J. Swift, Esq.,
Your letter of December 12th, together with the paper, (in Columbus, Georgia, Enquirer-Sun of December 1st, 1913), containing the article about the capture of Columbus by my brigade on the evening of April 16th, 1865, came in due course. I did not at once reply because you gave me no address. I am now in receipt of your letter of January 8th to General James H. Wilson, and will send this communication under care to him.
I understand that you wish me to repeat or affirm what has already been printed in the official records of the Union and Confederate Armies, about the precise date on which the battle before and at Columbus was fought.
I have always considered that engagement, by the number present and the results achieved, to be the final battle of the war. It was fought on April 16th, 1865, and after dark. Our positions for and in the attack, were decided upon in advance by information which I had obtained while my command (comprising something more than 2,000 men were present,) was awaiting orders and subsequently by light by discharge of cannon and firearms, and to some extent by that of buildings in Girard, set on fire by order or otherwise, by some persons within the Confederate lines. With the death of Col. Lamar in Columbus, all serious resistance came to an end, for we were then in full possession of the guns and works on the Alabama side of the Chattahoochee River, as well as those within the city itself. We had in our possession at the finish about 1,500 prisoners of war. It was unfortunate for the people in Columbus, and others in Alabama and Georgia, that General Wilson was not reliably informed of the surrender of the army of General Lee. Selma was taken on the day of Petersburg, but communication could during that time, come only from the Confederate sources.
If you wish specific information which I can furnish in aid of your rightful contention that the last battle between Union and Confederates was fought on the night of April 16th, 1865, at Columbus, Georgia, I shall be glad to give it.
Very truly yours,
(Signed) Edward F. Winslow.
NOTE--General Winslow died at Canandaigua, New York, on October 22nd, 1914, and was buried in the cemetery at that place.
(Randolph Mott and his house in Columbus)
Colonel Randolph Lawler Mott, who occupied the "Mott House," and grounds that were one-half (2 acres) of one of the big blocks for which Columbus is noted, and at which residence General Wilson was a guest during his stay in the city, and to which invitation Colonel Mott subjoined the assurance: "General Wilson, this is one residence and place that has never been out of the Union."
Col. Mott was born in Fauquier County, Virginia, August 19th, 1799, adjoining Prince William County, where John Minor Botts was born in 1802. In 1862 the latter, on account of his devotion to the Union suffered imprisonment.
With an originality and independence that was characteristic of him, Col. Mott was an ardent and out-spoken Union man all during the war, but his helpfulness to those in need and whose main supports were the Confederate soldiers, fighting and falling in the first ranks of the Southern cause, was an immunity to his unrepressed "freedom of speech," which he spoke in a spirit of triumph when he invited General Wilson to be his guest.
He and Andrew Johnson were close friends as young men in North Carolina before the latter came to Georgia and the former moved to Tennessee.
The southwest corner of the Mott lot abutted about opposite to where Col. Lamar was killed by the last shot of the "closing scene," except perhaps, the one that killed the noble and much regretted young Alexander W. Robinson. After the last stand at the Columbus end of the 14th Street bridge, and the enemy, probably to show inhabitants that the city had been captured, did more or less firing on Broad Street. It was thus that Judge Waddell, of Russell County, Alabama, was shot and mortally wounded on the upper part of Broad Street. Mr. J. J. Jones, local editor of the Enquirer, and Mr. Evan Jones, of Apalachicola, were also killed on Broad Street. A Mr. Smith, a watchmaker, and an Englishman by birth, was also killed on this street.
Col. Mott's body servant at the time was a young, active, good looking and proud-stepping African negro, named Frank Barnbush. He had been one of the cargo of the slaver "Wanderer," and it is very likely that Col. Mott bought him from Col. Lamar.
Frank probably little understood the meaning of the noise and firing in this last excitement, which he might have conceived as something similar to the ambuscade in the African jungle when he was led captive to the last slave ship that sailed from Africa to America.
General Wilson, it is said, wanted to take Frank with him, and Col. Mott let Frank understand that under the Emancipation proclamation he was free to decide for himself, which he promptly did in favor of staying with his former owner, Col. Mott. A few years after the close of the war, Frank was drowned in catching drift wood on the Chattahoochee River.
The combination of circumstances, at this last scene, enacted on the threshold of the place and residence, which the owner said had never been "out of the Union;" that Frank was there, and probably crouching in terror of another captivity, at hearing these last shots, signaling his own freedom, and that of his own people, both in Africa and America, and that his captor and first owner, was shot from his horse by one of these gun fires, are coincidences that arrest our attention and give us pause to wonder and to marvel as over strange and unusual happenings.
Col. Mott had a son, John R. Mott, who was Adjutant on the Confederate General Benning's staff.
Col. Mott was killed in the old car shed in Atlanta by being run over by the cars, July, 1882. On account of his fitness, business ability and integrity, he had been appointed one of the Trustees of the State Sanitarium, by James M. Smith, the first Democratic Governor after the war.
Immediately north of the Mott Place, is Mott's Green, belonging to the city, and on which is located the Public Library.
The Mott House was built by Mr. J. S. Calhoun. Its elegant staircases were from a design in one of the palaces in Milan. Soon after the house was built, in 1851, Mr. Daniel Griffin bought it. He put the brick wall around the lot, and the towers. He intended to make it his pernmnent residence, but the dampness due to its nearness to the river affected Mrs. Griffin's health. About 1857 he sold it to Col. Mott. Mr. Griffin was the father of Misses Theresa and Anna Griffin. With other additions put upon it by Col. Mott, the external appearance in the picture appearing of it to-day, is not radically different from what it was in 1865. Mrs. Holstead, in a series of articles which she published in the Ledger, has an account of the house and a number of others which she entitled, "The History of Old Colonial Residences in and about Columbus." I think that the Society should republish these as being very proper to be included in the data of which an Historical Society is formed.
This note is prepared in reference to certain pictures appropriate fo be inserted in a proper publication of "the last battle." The picture of the wooden covered bridge is that of the one that superseded the bridge destroyed by the defenders in 1865, was built in 1866 by John D. Gray, and stood there until September 1st, 1910, when the present reinforced concrete bridge took its place. At this place the first bridge across the river was constructed by John Godwin who came to Columbus from Cheraw, South Carolina. He then made this his home but living in Girard, Alabama. He was very famous as a bridge builder. In 1834 the Alabama Legislature authorized Daniel McDougald, Robert Collins, James C. Watson, Burton Hepburn as a company, to "make and erect all things necessary to the permanent erection of the western abutment of the bridge built by the town of Columbus, and to receive one-half of the tolls accruing. This same act declared that no person or corporation should land a bridge or use a ferry on the Alabama side within a space of two miles above or below. This, of course, created a strong controversy. The courts of Alabama decided in favor of the rights of their state and those of Georgia ill favor of Columbus and its citizens. The matter went to the Supreme Court of the United .States, and in the ease of Howard vs. Ingersoll, 13th Howard, page 381, in 1851, decided in favor of Georgia. That is, the cession that Georgia made for the formation of the Mississippi territory in 1802 and reserved the western bank of the Chattahoo-chee to the highwater mark on the Alabama side, meant the action of the water as high up as the prominent water mark on the Alabama side, and not these marks at low water, as was contended by the Alabama litigants.
The "Harrison freshet" in 1841 destroyed the lower bridge, and John Godwin rebuilt it. He had a negro belonging to him by the name of Horace King, who restored the l4th Street bridge, which had been destroyed by the raiders in April of 1865. Horace became as proficient in bridge building as his master. He died a number of years ago. In the Godwin cemetery on top of the tall hill close by and a little to the Southwest of the terminus of the Girard street railroad is a monument beautiful in its simplicity, the truncated, prymidal marble shaft resting Upon a large cube of marble. On the face of the cube, facing the grave is the following inscription:
Oct. 17, 1798,
Feb. 26, 1859.
This stone was placed here by
in lasting remembrance of the love and gratitude he felt for his lost fiend and former master.
It would seem that Horace assisted in the building of the first bridge in 1832. Our own poet of Torch Hill and author of "Little Giffen" in his Reminiscences on visiting the Eagle & Phenix Mills made the first stanza:
"Childhood! The Chattahoochee's banks,
My scene of summer playing;
The first to cross the first planks
Of the first bridge--King's laying."
Kenard's Trail or Ferry, where General Oglethorpe crossed the river and signed famous treaty with the Indians, August 21st, 1739.
Erected by the Oglethorpe Chapter, D. A. R., 1898.
General Oglethorpe went to attend the great Council of the Tribes, which was to assemble at Coweta Town, now Fort Mitchell, just below Columbus near the Chattahoochee River in Russell County, Alabama. It is probable that Gen. John Floyd, a Major General in the war of 1812 and in the Indian wars that followed, built the fort which gives Fort Mitchell its name. In 1813 he made his retrograde march there, after his celebrated victory over the Creeks at Auttose on the Tallapoosa River. He was the grandfather of the mother of Secretary William G. McAdom. Floyd County, Georgia, is named for him, where at Rome, in Myrtle Hill Cemetery overlooking the Etowah, is buried Mrs. Woodrow Wilson.
On the 9th of April, 1865, at Appomattox, "Rock and Tige" and all the Dogs of War in Virginia were leashed; before the 16th of April they had been called off the trail everywhere else west of Virginia by.the pending armistice between Johnston and Sherman.
"One of the most gratifying incidents of this event was the capture of a notorious newpaper known as the Memphis Appeal. When Memphis was taken the proprietor fled and re-established his press at Grenada, whence he removed it to Jackson, the capitol of Mississippi. He later transferred it to Atlanta, but when Sherman captured that place the editor turned back to Montgomery where he continued the publication of disloyal and inflammatory articles against the Union and its armies, and the name of each place in turn to the title of his journal. As my command approached Montgomery, the fire-eating editor again gathered his press and printing materials to Columbus. Here, however, we were so close upon his heels that he had no time to set up his press or to resume the publication of his peripatetic journal."(See "Under the Old Flag," page 268.)
"As Columbus was the last great manufacturing place and storehouse of the Confederacy and we were still without official information as to what had been taking place in Virginia, I resolved to destroy everything within reach that could he made useful for further continuance of the rebellion.
"It will be recalled that up to that time the Confederate authorities had been burning all the baled cotton within reach of our columns, whether it belonged to the Confederate Government or to the Southern people. It was the only product of the South that would sell for gold, and it was at that time worth over a dollar a pound, for the simple reason that it was required by the entire civilized world, and yet with insensate folly the Confederates were destroying it as though it were food or military supplies necessary to meet our daily wants. So long as they took this view of it I willingly helped them." (See "Under the Old Flag," page 266)
According to the Winslow report the amount of cotton destroyed at Columbus was 125,000 bales. Giving a valuation to this of a dollar a pound and an average of 500 pounds to the bale, the value of the whole was $62,500,000.00. Capt. T. E. Blanchard, President of the Columbus Fourth National Bank, had been badly wounded by a bursting shell at the battle of Resaca, which confined him in a hospital in Atlanta before he could reach Columbus. Still on a litter he got to his home in Columbus July, 1864. He continued on crutches until April, 1865. His gradual improvement, however, enabled him to accept the position of Provost Marshal of Columbus under Col. Von Zinken. In pursuance of his office he was ordered on Saturday, the 15th of April, and the day before Columbus was captured, to require from all the cotton warehousemen a statement of all the cotton stored respectively in the warehouses, together with the persons owning it, for which he was to get a full report on Monday. He is quite sure the object of this inventory was for the purpose, on the part of the Confederates, to burn the cotton, and to prevent it from falling into the hands of the enemy, and shipping it via the river to the port of Apalachicola. He understood that this burning was to take place on the Monday following the Saturday, but the suddenness with which the enemy confronted Columbus on Sunday prevented the execution of tile purpose to burll all the cotton in the warehouses of Columbus on the part of the Confederate authorities themselves.
General Richard Taylor said: "I have never met this General Wilson, whose soldierly qualities are entitled to respect; for of all the Federal expeditions of which I have any knowledge, his was the best conducted." (See"Destruction and Reconstruction," page 220.)
General Cobb at Macon is quoted as having said, describing the recent battle at Columbus: "My God! How the Georgia line did fight in defense of Columbus!" (See "Under the Old Flag," page 353.)
NO MENTION IS MADE OF BATTLE AT PALO ALTO, TEX.
A few days ago the Macon News, upon receiving an invitation to attend the Columbus "Home Coming," at which time the anniversary of the last battle between organized troops of the United States and the Confederate States will be celebrated, this battle having taken place on Sunday, April 16, 1865, and lasting into the night, commented on the matter, and wondered if, in fact, that battle was in reality the last battle. It referred to clashes as having occurred between Confederates and united States troops at Palo Alto, in Texas, on May 13, that yeair. Mr. Charles J. Swift, of this city, explained in a letter to the Colmnbus Historical Society officers that such clashes as may have occurred at that time took place long after the surrender, and that they must bave been between Confederates making their way to Mexico and United States troops. The article from the Macon News and Mr. Swift's letter to the officers of the Society were published in the Enquirer-Sun, and be sent a copy of the paper to the Military Service Institution of the United States, at Governor's Island, New York. This institution is the highest authority on military matters in the United States, and the following letter, under date of March 26, 1915, was received by Mr. Swift from Secretary Allison, of the institution:
"My Dear Col. Swift: Referring to the article signed by you in the Enquirer.Sun of March 23, '15, Heirman's 'Historical Register and Dictionary of the United States Army,' published by direction of Congress, in its 'Alphabetical List of Battles, Actions, Combats, Skirmishes, Military Events, etc., April 19, 1775, to July 1, 1902,' makes no mention of any action occurring at Palo Alto, Texas, on May 13, 1865."
It seems therefore that the engagement or skirmish, or whatever it was, referred to by the Macon News on the date mentioned was of no more importance than that attributed to it by Mr. Swift in his letter to the officers of the Columbus Historical Society.
--The Columbus (Ga.) Enquirer-Sun of March 30, 1915.
The best recollections of the style of the did 14th Street Bridge--the one destroyed on the Monday following the capture of Columbus are to the effect that it was a covered bridge like the old Dillingham Street Bridge as shown opposite page 14, and was built by Horace King.
This page is maintained by Daniel A. Bellware and was last updated on April 13, 2004.