It was 150 years ago today that the Civil War ended. Yes, the end of the bloody Civil War that started in 1861 ended on April 9, 1865.
The troops were happy — they were going home!
Then, on the evening of April 15, 1865, President Abraham Lincoln was shot and killed in Ford’s Theatre, in Washington, D.C. The troops were sadden by the president’s death. It was even worse for the 15th Missouri Infantry Regiment and a number of other regiments, as they were being sent to Texas, instead of home.
The 15th Missouri Regiment started with 40 men of Highland, but the ranks had been thinned by the battles. When Maurice Marcoot returned to this regiment, on March 15, 1865, he had spent four months at the hospital in Chattanooga, Tenn. The North was winning its battles, and he was able to take the train all the way to Huntsville, Ala.
“I spent the night with the Wisconsin 1st Division and met my friend Montz Tschoepe, who had been wounded at Franklin, Tenn., and he was also rejoining our regiment. Our regiment was very active while I was in the hospital, and their information follows.
“Our corps and our regiment had captured Pulaska, Tenn., on Nov. 2, 1864 and on the 22nd was catching up with rebel Gen. Hood. The 4th Corps joined us, but even with our extra manpower, our Gen. Stanley was seriously wounded. Also, rebel Gen. Pat Cleburn was killed in hand-to-hand battle, just at our feet.
“Gen. Hood’s losses were 1,750 killed, 3,800 wounded and 702 taken prisoner. We had corporals Englebert Dreher and Frances Raffel, plus Pvt. Charles Weinger taken prisoner and taken to Meridian, Miss. Our 4th Corps’ total loss was 189 killed, 1,033 wounded and 1,104 missing, probably prisoners.
“The morning of Dec. 15, we attacked Gen. Hood’s troops again at Montgomery Hill, driving them from their position, capturing 17 artillery pieces and many prisoners.
“The next day, it was at Overton’s Hill, where Wilson’s cavalry had swung around and attacked Gen. Hood’s forces from the rear. The now shattered remnants of the Confederate Army fled in great disorder, through Brentwood Pass, with our troops vigorously pursuing, capturing rebel Gen. Rock and a large force of cavalry. The next day, the 4th Corps captured another 413 prisoners. The fleeing army left their hospital with 200 of our boys and 2,000 rebels.
“Rebel Gen. Hood originally had 50,000 troops but was now completely routed and disorganized. On Dec. 20, we were back at ‘Duck River,’ where it was raining, then sleet and snow. The next day, we were pursuing Gen. Hood again, laying a pontoon bridge across ‘Duck River.’ (The 117th Illinois crossed this same pontoon bridge just four days later.)
“On Christmas Day 1864 we gained 14 miles, and the enemy was destroying large quantities of stores that they couldn’t transport. We camped near Lexington, Ala., but by Dec. 31, our own provisions were running low.
“On Jan. 4, 1865, we had captured a railroad and rode the railroad cars down to Decatur, Ga., and made camp.
By the 29th of January, we had captured a fort, and our artillery enjoyed the target practice. We were getting Confederate colonels coming in with truce flags and talking about exchanging prisoners, but to no avail.
“On Feb. 21, another squad of Confederate deserters came in to our lines, giving up their arms. The next day, we learned that Gen. Sherman had reached South Carolina and entered Columbia.
“On the 26th, we received some of our veterans from the 3rd, 12th and 17th Missouri regiments, as the regulars were being discharged and sent home. Still, we had several skirmishes, and then the rebels would return to their lines.
“On March 9, Gen. P.H. Sheridan had success over rebel Gen. Hood, and our boys rejoiced exceedingly. Then, on the 18th, several more Confederate soldiers and their families came into our lines.
“More good news kept coming in. Gen. Sheridan had again attacked the rebels at Five Forks, captured some 6,000 prisoners and their guns. The next day, we received dispatches that Richmond, Va., the capital of the Confederates, had fallen. Generals Grant and Sherman were in control.
“The end of the CIVAL WAR! Confederate Gen. Lee had surrendered all of his forces to Gen. Grant at Appomattox on April 9, 1865, but we didn’t receive the dispatch until the afternoon of the 10th. The cheering in the ranks was simply tremendous, lasting after nightfall. There was firing of the muskets in celebration and in the excitement, two comrades were accidentally killed and a few wounded.
“President Abraham Lincoln was assassinated at Ford’s Theatre on the evening of April 15, 1865, just seven days after the war was over. This news didn’t reach us until late on the 16th. We were thinking that President Lincoln would be inaugurated for a second term to a united country, instead of a divided country, making our sacrifices worth the effort. Then, like a thunderbolt, all were in mourning, with extreme sorrow. The news was terrible and crushing, silence and sorrow reigned supreme.”
(But this was not the last service time for the 15th Missouri Infantry Regiment.)
“Several days passed in gloom, and we were not sorry to receive our marching orders, we were going HOME. (We thought.) We had reached Nashville, Tenn., by April 25, 1865, but then went into camp…
“All of those who had enlisted in 1862 were to be mustered out. Also, all those who had been enlisted in 1862 for three years, were now being mustered out. Those of us that had enlisted in 1861 were not, as we had enlisted for the duration.
“BUT it wasn’t a happy time for our 15th. We were NOT GOING HOME! We were being sent to Texas, to assist Texas and the USA with the war between Mexico and France… France was sending armed forces into Mexico to establish an Austrian prince to rise to the throne in Mexico, disregarding any rights that Mexico had as an independent power or nation.”
(Quotes from Maurice Marcoot’s Five Years in the Sunny South, Pages 81-96.)