Bennett Place Surrender

On April 11, 1865, General Robert E. Lee surrendered the remainder of his army in Appomattox, Virginia.

However, President Jefferson Davis remained unconvinced that Lee’s surrender was the end of the Confederacy and the war effort. Davis still had visions of a raising a large, well-armed field army to continue the fight. On April 13, General Johnston tried to discourage Davis from renewed combat. He argued that the Union forces outnumbered the Confederates by eighteen to one; the Confederacy lacked the money, credit, and factories to purchase or produce more arms; and fighting would only further devastate the South without significantly harming the enemy. Johnston wanted to obtain the best possible terms for surrender.

Johnston decided to engage in negotiations with General Sherman without Davis’s approval. Johnston offered to surrender all the remaining armies in exchange for amnesty for Davis and his cabinet. Sherman rejected the offer because that would mean recognizing the Confederacy as an independent nation.

In response to the news of Lincoln’s assassination, the Confederate Army of Tennessee quickly crumbled. As news of the surrender negotiations spread, soldiers from Johnston’s army began to desert.

On April 18, Sherman met Johnston again, offering forgiving terms to southerners: an agreement to stop the war, and a full pardon of all Confederate soldiers. Sherman did not want to punish the South but rather to welcome them back into the United States.

Unfortunately, Sherman did not have the authority to make this offer, and President Andrew Johnson rejected these terms and told Grant to continue fighting, starting from April 26.

Johnston knew he needed to act fast to get a good agreement. He and Sherman met again at Bennett Place on April 26, and wrote a new agreement. This time President Johnson approved. Johnston’s units would stop all fighting; each brigade could keep 1/7 of its small weapons; all officers and men were to be paroled and promise to not fight the United States; soldiers could keep their horses; and the Union army would provide rations and transportation home to the soldiers. These favorable terms allowed former Confederates to return home.

Source: Bennett Place Surrender
©2020 American Battlefield Trust

Back to top