Former Civil War enemies mingled on the final march

Lt. Col. Samuel Merrill, in his history of the 70th Indiana Volunteer Infantry, wrote about the march from Raleigh NC to Washington DC after the surrender of Gen. Lee’s Army of Northern Virginia and Gen. Johnston’s Army of Tennessee. Part of the Union XX Corps, Army of the Cumberland, Merrill’s regiment had been present at Raleigh among the occupying troops, starting on 14 April 1865. After Johnston’s surrender, they joined the myriads of soldiers marching to Washington between April 29 and May 19, in preparation for the Grand Review on 24 May.

Merrill’s account of the journey includes encounters with Confederate soldiers on their way home after surrendering, and it’s interesting to see how much commonality was felt between the former enemies:

“The men from General Lee’s army, whom we met in large numbers, were ragged and had nothing to eat and no blankets, but the weather was warm, and little bedding was needed by old soldiers. When we met them, as we were going into camp, we invited them to sleep with us, and at such times talked over the events of the war till far into the night. We always found these ex-rebels friendly and glad that the war was over, and the parting in the morning would be like leave-taking of old friends.”

(Samuel Merrill, The Seventieth Indiana Volunteer Infantry in the War of the Rebellion. Indianapolis: The Bowen-Merrill Company. Page 271.)

(Photo: Samuel Merrill. In Souvenir of the unveiling, dedication and presentation of the Abraham Lincoln G. A. R. memorial monument, 1915. Page 65.)

(Header image: Alfred Waud, “Soldiers Sharing Rations,” 1865.)

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