- Jun 11, 2020
Does anyone know how soon after Lee surrendered Union officers and soldiers would have returned home (Virginia area)? Was it immediately or did some time pass before they were able to go home? Thanks!
Very helpful. Thank you! One more question. Would it have been out of the question for an officer to ask for a short leave following Lee's surrender? In the novel I'm writing, I need my hero to go on a short leave days after the surrender until Lincoln's assassination. Would that be out of the question? He's a captain. Thanks!The men of the Army of the Potomac, Army of the Tennessee, and Army of Georgia all marched north following the conclusion of the war to participate in the Grand Review of the Armies. The men of the Army of the Potomac paraded through Washington DC on May 23. While some soldiers were excited to participate, others were annoyed at the delay in returning home. Within a week after the conclusion of the review, the armies were disbanded and sent home. Most regiments appear to have mustered out over the following few months (the 6th Wisconsin for example mustered out on July 2, 1865; the 5th New Hampshire July 28; the 64th New York July 14). This tradition of quickly mustering out volunteer soldiers at the conclusion of a war continued through WW2.
Here's a good general resource:
And I also recommend this book:
MARCHING HOME: UNION VETERANS AND THEIR UNENDING CIVIL WAR
This is very helpful information. My hero was at Richmond just after the evacuation helping douse fires during the takeover (April 3, 1865). His home is in New York, but I need him to have a short leave (around April 11-13) to go in search of the heroine that lives near Monocacy Junction, MD. I then have him return to Washington (April 14) to discover Pres. Lincoln has been shot. I don't know if all that is plausible. I'm sure it's a stretch, but then, it is a work of fiction. =)It's not particularly likely. General Joseph Johnston's Army of Tennessee was still active in the field, and Grant recalled in his memoirs (page 643) "When I left Appomattox I ordered General Meade to proceed leisurely to Burkesville Station with the Army of the Potomac and the Army of the James, and to go into camp there until further orders from me. General Johnston, as has been stated before, was in North Carolina confronting General Sherman. It could not be known positively, of course, whether Johnston would surrender on the news of Lee's surrender, though I supposed he would; and if he did not, Burkesville Station was the natural point from which to move to attack him. The army which I could have sent against was superior to his, and that with which Sherman confronted him was also superior; and between the two he would necessarily be crushed, or driven away."
As Grant predicted, Sherman was able to finish Johnston off on his own, leading to the surrender of Johnston's Army of Tennessee between April 17 and April 26, 1865 at Bennett Place, North Carolina.
April 26, incidentally enough, was the same day Booth died in Virginia after the twelve day manhunt.
Following the surrender of Joseph Johnston, the Army of the Potomac made its way to Washington DC from roughly May 2-12 or thereabouts.
My understanding is that an officer would not be granted leave during active campaigning season. Soldiers usually went home in the winter when the armies were in their winter quarters. Many soldiers never received leave or furlough at any point during the war. There are a number of threads on furloughs:
How often did the typical soldier get a furlough? Also how long would the furlough be for. Did soldiers only receive furloughs for certain reasons?civilwartalk.comIt was July 20, 1864, when 400 veterans of the 31st Mass. Mounted Infantry (AKA, unofficially, the “6th Mass. Cavalry”) began their journey home on 30 day furlough, a reward for their recent 3-year re-enlistment. At New Orleans, they boarded the steamer Pauline Carroll, and started up the...civilwartalk.com
In his classic study THE LIFE OF BILLY YANK, Bell Wiley writes (page 292) that "policies governing leave [were] haphazard throughout the conflict." Many soldiers who re-enlisted in the winter of 1863-1864 were, however, allowed to go home for 30 days on furlough. In fact, this offer of furlough was used to try to encourage more soldiers to re-enlist. Outside of these instances, however, it was very hard for an enlisted man to get permission to visit home.
This article discusses leave/furlough as well:
FurloughsFurloughs were formal leaves from military service granted to enlisted men from the Union or Confederate armies. These furloughs, whether bestowed on Yankee or Rebel soldiers, could only be granted by commanding officers attached to the soldier's company or regiment. Military officers...www.encyclopedia.com
That being said - if an officer was very sick or seriously wounded they may be allowed to go home and recover - convalesce is the particular term. William Francis Bartlett, for example, was wounded and had his leg amputated in 1862 and was allowed to go to Baltimore and then home to Boston to recover. He was wounded again in 1863 and went home where he raised a new regiment. And he was wounded yet again in 1864 and went home to recover.
This website - https://www.essentialcivilwarcurriculum.com/the-wounded.html - includes the following information:
"Each side eventually had many of these general hospitals. Their purpose was long-term care for wounded and sick soldiers with an expected lengthy recovery time—weeks or months, or in some cases even years. The preferred outcome was the return of the rehabilitated soldier to his regiment. However, in cases of disabling amputation and wounds, the hospital attempted to get the soldier to a level of convalescence permitting him to be discharged from the army and sent home. In some cases, soldiers wounded in the extremities, who suffered arterial bleeding or severe infections such as gangrene, underwent an initial or a corrective amputation at the general hospital (although most amputations were done in the field hospitals)."
Someone else is probably more knowledgeable about how this process played out, but I can imagine a hypothetical scenario where a very sick or grievously wounded officer would be sent home following the surrender to try to recover. Perhaps his home is Washington DC or he happens to be passing through DC at the time of the assassination. Even then, however, it's a very tight window from April 9 to April 14 for a soldier to be granted permission to leave, find a means to go north, and arrive in DC.
Of course, there is always deserting if you need your officer to get from point A to point B quickly.....
I need him to have a short leave (around April 11-13) to go in search of the heroine that lives near Monocacy Junction, MD. I then have him return to Washington (April 14) to discover Pres. Lincoln has been shot. I don't know if all that is plausible. I'm sure it's a stretch, but then, it is a work of fiction. =)
Another angle might be for him to have requested the leave BEFORE the April 1-2 assault at Petersburg, but to not actually receive approval until afterwards. Or, perhaps having received permission, wait until right after Appomattox to actually begin the leave. Only Grant himself actually "knew" there would be a general assault leading to the campaign that ended the war. For example, President Lincoln was visiting Grant at his City Point headquarters in the last days of March and was preparing to return to Washington when Grant gently "suggested" that he *might* want to stick around a few days longer!Very helpful. Thank you! One more question. Would it have been out of the question for an officer to ask for a short leave following Lee's surrender? In the novel I'm writing, I need my hero to go on a short leave days after the surrender until Lincoln's assassination. Would that be out of the question? He's a captain. Thanks!
I like your ideas. Will give it some thought. I'll get him off to her somehow. =) Thanks!As with any hero racing to the airport to catch his love before she flies off, I'm sure your hero can find a way to skirt the rules of military law. Perhaps the colonel offers to look the other way? Perhaps he "accidentally" gets marked down as discharged or wounded and sent north?
In 1862, a number of soldiers of the 6th Wisconsin complained to their colonel that they were short on rations. Bell Wiley records what happened next: "The colonel pointed to a clump of farmhouses on a hill and said: 'I'm going to take a short nap. Don't let me see or hear your foraging on this march. I think I see a smokehouse near that white residence.'"
In other words, they were all human, and friends were more than willing to look the other way if it was for a good reason. Is it plausible an officer would be allowed to go home so soon after Appomattox? No. But is it possible? Of course!
Bear in mind also that Civil War regiments were not the epitome of discipline we imagine in the modern army. Volunteers with a "strong independent-minded American spirit" were notoriously hard to control. Many companies and regiments were raised locally, meaning officers may be giving orders to pre-war friends who were less than willing to oblige. As John Billings writes in HARDTACK AND COFFEE (page 153): "There were regiments each of which, when off duty, seemed to contain at least two or three hundred colonels and captains, so much social freedom obtained between officers and rank and file, yet at the proper time there was just one commander of such a regiment to whom the men looked ready to do his bidding, even to follow him into the jaws of death. These officers were not always devout men; at an earlier period in their lives some of them may have learned to be profane; some drank commissary whiskey occasionally, it may be; but in all their dealings with subordinates, while they made rigid exactions of them as soldiers, they never forgot that they were men."
The colonel and your hero could have been close friends before the war; hell, the colonel may even know the heroine!
"I've received an urgent letter from heroine that she is in imminent danger!"
"Interesting...well it's a shame that our pickets were so lax this evening, what with the end of the war upon us. Such a shame you were grievously wounded too and sent home to recover!"
Y'know - that old cliche.
Yes. A good idea too. Thanks.Another angle might be for him to have requested the leave BEFORE the April 1-2 assault at Petersburg, but to not actually receive approval until afterwards. Or, perhaps having received permission, wait until right after Appomattox to actually begin the leave. Only Grant himself actually "knew" there would be a general assault leading to the campaign that ended the war. For example, President Lincoln was visiting Grant at his City Point headquarters in the last days of March and was preparing to return to Washington when Grant gently "suggested" that he *might* want to stick around a few days longer!
Thanks for this info. I appreciate it.@C. Roemer in the Official Records of the War of the Rebellion, Series III, Volume V has all the official orders for the commands on mustering out, places of rendezvous, etc. For instance, just opening to page 20 to 21, May 15, 1865, General Orders No. 94 states;
"The following regulations are announced, and will be observed in discharging from service such volunteers as are hereafter are to be mustered out with their regimental or company organizations:
1: Army corps, or at least the divisions thereof, will be kept intact, and immediately upon receipt of an order directing any portion of the forces to be mustered out commanding generals of armies and departments will order the said troops (if not already thereat) to one of the following rendezvous, viz:
Middle Military Division, and troops of other armies and departments arriving therein: Defenses of Washington, D. C : Harper's Ferry, Va., and Cumberland, Md.
2. Military Division of the James: Richmond and Old Point Comfort, Va.
3. Department of North Carolina: New Berne and Wilmington.
4. Department of the South: Charleston, S. C., and Savannah, Ga.
etc. [all the Departments.]
Further on the same page 21;
" A. As soon as the rolls of a regiment are completed, the said company with its arms, colors, and necessary equipage will be placed en route to its State, and to the rendezvous therein at or nearest to the place it was mustered in. (ƣ) En route, and after arrival in the State, the following will be observed:...."
There is much more information within this volume you can locate on the Cornell website. Mine is a disk and may be numbered differently than what they provide.
Interesting. I'll keep that in mind. Thanks!Here's another thing about furloughs, sometimes a group were given just so many and they had to draw for them. I'm currently reading a diary "What The Private Saw." I'm downstairs right now and don't have the book in front of me - but the private is in the Union and in his particular group the Captain gives X amount of furloughs to the men and they have to draw for them. This seems to be a pretty regular feature he writes about (I'm recalling his group is from Pennsylvania) and to be honest, I've read A LOT of diaries and other CW books and have never heard of drawing for furloughs until this one.
This is very helpful information. My hero was at Richmond just after the evacuation helping douse fires during the takeover (April 3, 1865). His home is in New York, but I need him to have a short leave (around April 11-13) to go in search of the heroine that lives near Monocacy Junction, MD. I then have him return to Washington (April 14) to discover Pres. Lincoln has been shot. I don't know if all that is plausible. I'm sure it's a stretch, but then, it is a work of fiction. =)
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