The Civil War 145 Years Ago: February 1865

145 Years Ago February 1865

By James W. Durney

  • Illinois becomes the first state to ratify the 13th Amendment abolishing slavery on the first.
  • Sherman’s army of 62,000 starts north from Savannah.  O.O. Howard and Henry W. Slocum command a wing.  Hugh Kilpatrick commands the cavalry.
  • On the third, Abraham Lincoln and Secretary William H. Seward meet with Confederate Vice-President Alexander H. Stevens, John A. Campbell and Robert M. T. Hunter meet on a ship in Hampton Roads to discuss peace.  Lincoln will only consider surrender and Stevens will only consider independence as the meeting falls apart.
  • Starting on the fifth, Grant’s forces attack along the Boydton Plank Road in an effort to extend the line westward cutting vital supply lines.
  • In Richmond, John C. Breckinridge is the new Secretary of War and Robert E. Lee becomes General in Chief.
  • On the ninth, President Davis enacts a pardon for any deserter who reports to their unit within 30 days.
  • John M. Schofield’s XXIII Corps deploys at Fort Fisher and starts operations in that area.
  • On the 11th, Sherman’s army has cut the railroad between Augusta and Charleston reinforcements cannot reach the city.  William J. Hardee is convinced that Charleston is Sherman’s objective.
  • On February 12, 1865, the Electoral College elects Abraham Lincoln President 212 to 21.  The last President to be reelected was Andy Jackson in 1836.
  • England expresses “unease” over the American naval buildup on the Great lakes.  The government says is in response to the St. Albans raid mounted from Canada.
  • On the 14th, Sherman’s army crosses the Congaree River advancing on Columbia, the city surrenders on the 17th.  Two-thirds of the city is destroyed in a fire set by retreating CSA and advancing USA forces.
  • On the 18th, forces under Alexander Schimmelfenning occupy Charleston.
  • On the 20th, the Confederate House of Representatives approves the enlistment of slaves as soldiers.  Opposition will delay this measure.  Having completed the destruction of military targets in Columbia, Sherman makes Goldsborough his next objective.
  • Braxton Bragg orders Willington evacuated on the 21st as Union troops reach the southwestern edge of the city.  On the same day, Robert E. Lee informs Richmond that maintaining communications with the army facing Sherman is the priority.  If necessary, he will abandon the city.
  • On the 25th, Joseph T. Johnston resumes command of the approximately 25,000 men that make up the Army of Tennessee.
  • Philip H. Sheridan and Wesley Merritt take 10,000 men into the Shenandoah Valley to cut the Virginia Central Railroad and the James River Canal.
  • Nathan Bedford Forrest is promoted to lieutenant general on the 28th.

150 Years Ago January 1860

  • Congress is contentious!  After 44 ballots, the Democrats elect William F. Pennington Speaker of the House.  This only happens when John Sherman withdraws his candidacy.
  • In the Senate Jefferson Davis introduces resolutions defending slavery in the states and in the territories.  This is in addition to guarantees the return of fugitive slaves to their owners.
  • Speaking at Cooper Union, in New York City, Abraham Lincoln sets forth his position on popular sovereignty, slavery and the expansion of slavery.  Lincoln tries to be conciliatory and reassuring toward Southerners.  Lincoln’s Copper Union Address is a major step toward his nomination.


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