Diary of Orrin Brown—April 13, 1865

NC Gov Zebulon Vance, 1865Diary of Orrin Brown, New Bern, North Carolina

Thursday–Apr. 13th

We drew our cup of coffee and a small piece of Salt Beef for breakfast but did not get any dinner today. We had a nice night and it came off clear and warm this morning but clouded up got a little cooler and began to rain about 3 PM. The news came today confirming the report that Gen. Lee had surrendered the whole army of Northern Va. to Gen. Grant, and there was another salute fired from all of the Artilery in and around Newberne. It makes the men here feel as though the day of rejoiceing was near at hand. I read 6 Chapts. today which finishes the reading the Testament through the second time since I have been in the service. I went over to the river a fishing again today but did not catch any. There was a salute of 100 guns fired this evening for the surrender of Gen. Johnson and his army to Gen. Sherman.

Gen. Sherman took possession of the North Carolina capital at Raleigh, the morning of 13 April 1865.  Gen. Johnston, still meeting with Confederate President Jefferson Davis at Greensboro, had not in fact surrendered.  However, on the 12th prior, North Carolina Gov. Zebulon B. Vance and former governors David L. Swain and William A. Graham, composed a letter surrendering the state capital to Sherman, which the later two conveyed to Gen. Sherman as a “peace commission”.  They were received by Sherman that afternoon, and stayed with the Union troops overnight, returning to the city at first light.

On the 12th, the retreating Confederate army destroyed an immense amount of State property rather than hand it over to the Union army—blankets, cloth, leather and shoes, bacon and corn, medicine and public records.  The rear guard of Wheeler’s cavalry broke into stores and houses, carrying off supplies as they fled.  In the early morning hours of the 13th, the North Carolina Railroad depot was set fire, setting off shells and cartridges in tremendous explosions.  Union forces found the State Capitol’s interior vandalized, with documents strewn across the floors and glass in museum cases broken.



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