March 27, 1865 – Lincoln, Grant, Sherman, and Porter Meet at City Point, Virginia

As NPS summarizes:

In the spring of 1864, after leading the Army of the Potomac through the Overland Campaign from the Wilderness to Cold Harbor, Lt. Gen. Ulysses S. Grant transferred the army to the south side of the James River in an effort to seize the Confederate supply hub Petersburg. When four days of bloody frontal assaults failed to capture the city, he ordered the army to begin siege operations against it.

For the next nine and one-half months Grant would have his headquarters at City Point, Virginia eight miles behind the siege lines east of Petersburg now referred to as the Eastern Front. A small port town at the confluence of the James and Appomattox Rivers, City Point had been connected to Petersburg by railroad prior to the siege. Its strategic position next to a torn up railroad bed and the rivers offered Grant easy access to points along the front, as well as good transportation and communications with Fort Monroe, Virginia, and Washington, D.C., in the rear.”

On March 27, 1865, and again the following day, President Abraham Lincoln, General Ulysses S. Grant, General William T. Sherman, and Admiral David Dixon Porter held talks aboard the president’s steamship “The River Queen” in City Point (now Hopewell), Virginia. The men had never before met all at the same time. They discussed, among other things, what to do with the South following its inevitable surrender.

Lincoln had arrived at City Point on March 24, 1865 along with his wife Mary and son Tad.

The River Queen

The River Queen

At the same time, Sherman had headed to City Point to confer with Grant about delivering the final blow to Confederate General Robert E. Lee. Sherman later recalled in his memoirs:

“After I had been with him [Grant] an hour or so, he remarked that the President, Mr. Lincoln, was then on board the steamer River Queen, lying at the wharf, and he proposed that we should call and see him. We walked down to the wharf, went on board, and found Mr. Lincoln alone, in the after-cabin. He remembered me perfectly, and at once engaged in a most interesting conversation. He was full of curiosity about the many incidents of our great march, which had reached him officially and through the newspapers, and seemed to enjoy very much the more ludicrous parts-about the “bummers,” and their devices to collect food and forage when the outside world supposed us to be starving; but at the same time he expressed a good deal of anxiety lest some accident might happen to the army in North Carolina during my absence. I explained to him that that army was snug and comfortable, in good camps, at Goldsboro’; that it would require some days to collect forage and food for another march; and that General Schofield was fully competent to command it in my absence. Having made a good, long, social visit, we took our leave and returned to General Grant’s quarters, where Mrs. Grant had provided tea. While at the table, Mrs. Grant inquired if we had seen Mrs. Lincoln. “No,” said the general, “I did not ask for her;” and I added that I did not even know that she was on board. Mrs. Grant then exclaimed, “Well, you are a pretty pair!” and added that our neglect was unpardonable; when the general said we would call again the next day, and make amends for the unintended slight.”

General William Tecumseh Sherman

General William Tecumseh Sherman

Sherman also wrote of Lincoln:

“When at rest or listening, his legs and arms seemed to hang almost lifeless, and his face was care-worn and haggard, but the moment he began to talk, his face lightened up, his tall form, as it were, unfolded, and he was the very impersonation of good-humor and fellowship.”

But less than a month later, Lincoln would be dead.

You can read a more full account of the impressions of Sherman and Porter of their meeting here.

Admiral David Dixon Porter

Admiral David Dixon Porter


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