February 1865 saw the first official political meeting between the North and the South when Lincoln met members of the Confederacy to discuss peace. Lincoln rejected what they offered. Throughout the whole of the American Civil War, Lincoln had held the simple belief that America was one nation and that it would remain so.
February 1st: Illinois became the first state to ratify the 13th Amendment.
Sherman continued his advance through South Carolina.
February 3rd: Lincoln met the three Confederate representatives (Stephens, Turner and Campbell) on the ‘River Queen’ in Hampton Roads. Lincoln rejected their peace plan based on an independent south. He told them bluntly that America was one nation and one nation only. Lincoln insisted that the Union had to be restored before anything else was discussed.
February 5th: Union troops made further inroads into Confederate defences around Petersburg. If Petersburg fell, Richmond would be the next target. Therefore Petersburg had major significance for both sides in the war. Desertion was a major issue in the Confederate Army and the main cause of desertion was lack of food. Lee’s request for more food for the Army of Northern Virginia was met with silence in Richmond. This was more because they had no way of addressing Lee’s request more than indifference to the suffering of the soldiers.
February 7th: Lee’s men drove back Union troops at Boydton Plank Road but by now he only had 46,000 men to defend 37 miles of trenches – about 1200 men per mile.
February 8th: Sherman’s men continued their policy of destroying empty buildings as they advanced through South Carolina. This resulted in the Confederate general, Wheeler, complaining to Sherman that accommodation was being destroyed. However, Sherman had given orders that no building that was occupied should be destroyed but unoccupied ones should be.
February 9th: Jefferson Davis offered an amnesty to anyone who deserted the Confederate Army as long as they returned to their regiment within 30 days.
February 11th: Sherman cut off Augusta from Charleston by cutting the Augusta-Georgia railway. One of the Confederates few remaining armies was based in Charleston and it was in danger of being surrounded.
February 14th: Jefferson Davis urged the defenders of Charleston to hold until the last possible moment.
February 15th: Sherman’s army approached Columbia.
February 16th: Sherman’s troops arrived on the south bank of Columbia and the city was evacuated. Charleston prepared to evacuate.
February 17th: Columbia was occupied by Sherman’s troops. Most of the city was burned to the ground. Some said the fires were started by retreating Confederate cavalry units but most accept it was men from Sherman’s army. Men from Sherman’s army were actively pursued by Sherman’s provost guard, which would seem to indicate their guilt. Sherman later refused to express his sorrow for the destruction of Columbia. Charleston was also evacuated.
February 18th: Charleston surrendered.
February 20th: The Confederates House of Representatives passed a bill authorising the use of slaves as soldiers.
Wilmington, the last port that the Confederates possessed, was bombarded by Union forces.
February 21st: A sign of the divided opinion within the Confederacy: the Senate postponed a debate on whether the Confederacy should use slaves as soldiers.
The defenders of Wilmington prepared to evacuate the port.
February 22nd: Union troops entered Wilmington.
Lee began to plan his last campaign.
February 27th: Union troops started a major move up the Shenandoah Valley. 10,000 Union cavalry advanced against severely depleted Confederate units.
February 28th: One of the Union cavalry divisions in the Shenandoah Valley was commanded by George Armstrong Custer.