Report of J. H. Wilson
Lieutenant Colonel Thirty-fifth Infantry, Brevet Major General U.S. Army,
Late Major-General of Volunteers, Commanding Cavalry Corps
DAVENPORT, IOWA, January 17, 1867.
GENERAL: As a matter of historical interest and in justice to my late command, the Cavalry Corps of the Military Division of the Mississippi, I have the honor to submit the following report of the pursuit and capture of Jefferson Davis, and to request that the same may be made a part of the official records of the War Department. This report is prepared from the original information in my possession, together with the official reports of the officers serving under me in the closing campaign through Alabama and Georgia.
It will be remembered that after the capture of Selma and the passage of my command to the south side of the Alabama, its march was directed to the eastward by the way of Montgomery, Columbus, and West Point, to Macon. On the evening of the 11th day of April, 1865, one of my officers brought in copies of the Montgomery papers of the 6th and 7th, containing the first news which had reached me of the operations of General Grant about Petersburg, and from which, making allowance for rebel coloring, I supposed he had gained a decisive victory. It was stated that Davis and the rebel Government had already gone to Danville, but that their cause was not yet lost. On the 14th and 15th information was received confirmatory of Lee's defeat and the evacuation of Richmond; it was also reported that Grant was pressing the rebel army back upon Lynchburg. From these facts, together with the many rumors from all quarters indicative of unusual excitement among the rebels, I became convinced that they had met with a great disaster in Virginia, but, as a matter of course, I could obtain no definite or reliable information as to its extent or the probable course that would be adopted by the rebel Government. I assumed, however, that they would either endeavor to concentrate their forces in North Carolina and make further head against our armies, or that they would disband and endeavor to save themselves by flight. In either case it was clearly the duty of my command to close in upon them on the line upon which it was moving, with the greatest possible rapidity, so as to join in the final and decisive struggle, or to assist in the capture of such important persons as might seek safety in flight. Accordingly our march from Montgomery to Macon, a distance of 235 miles, was made in less than six days, and included the passage of the Chattahoochee and Flint Rivers, and the capture of the two fortified towns of Columbus and West Point. In order to cover the widest possible front of operations, and to obtain such information in regard to rebel movements as might enable us to act advisedly, detachments were sent off to the right and left of the main column. At Macon we were arrested by the armistice concluded between Generals Sherman and Johnston, though not until the city had fallen into our possession. During my conference with Generals Cobb and G.W. Smith, on the evening of the 20th, I received the first reliable information in regard to Lee's surrender and the course of events in Virginia.
The situation of my command was peculiar. Originally organized as a corps under General Sherman, the commanding general of the Military Division of the Mississippi, and not having been transferred, it still formed a legitimate part of his command, wherever he might be. General Sherman, with the main body of his army, was at that time in North Carolina moving northward. Before leaving North Alabama he had instructed me to report with my entire corps, except Kilpatrick's division, to Maj. Gen. George H. Thomas, to assist in the operations against Hood. It was the intention of General Sherman, however, as developed in frequent conversations with me while lying at Gaylesville, Ala., in October, 1864, that, as soon as Hood could be disposed of, and my command could be reorganized and remounted, I should gather together every man and horse that could be made fit for service and march through the richer parts of Alabama and Georgia for the purpose of destroying the railroad communications and supplies of the rebels, and bringing my command into the theater of operations toward which all our great armies were moving. In the campaign terminating at Macon I had actually moved under the direct instructions of General Thomas, but with the "amplest latitude of an independent commander," transmitted through him from General Grant in person. I found myself cut off from all communication with these generals, but liable to receive orders from either or all of them, and from the Secretary of War in addition. My first duty was clearly to take care of the public interests and to reconcile orders afterward, should they come in conflicting terms from different directions. In anticipation of a final break-up of the rebel forces, I had already determined to keep a sharp lookout for Davis and the leading rebel authorities. As soon as I became satisfied by reliable instructions from General Sherman that he had actually concluded an armistice, and intended it to apply to my command, I felt bound to observe it, but only upon the condition that the rebels should also comply with its provisions in equal good faith. One of those provisions was, that neither party should make any changes in the station of troops during the continuance of the armistice. My command while remaining in camp was therefore kept on the alert, and ready to move in any direction. Having heard from citizens, however, that Davis was making his way toward the south with an escort, I directed my command to take possession of the railroads, and to send scouts in all directions in order that I might receive timely notice of the rebel movements. The armistice was declared null and void by the President, but at least one day before I had been advised of this through General Thomas and General Gillmore, I received from General Sherman a cipher dispatch informing me of the formal termination of hostilities by the surrender of General Johnston and all the forces under his command east of the Chattahoochee. This was on the 27th day of April. I had already taken precautions to prevent persons of importance from escaping by the railroads, and immediately upon the receipt of the final surrender I made disposition of my command for the purpose of taking possession of the important points in Georgia and paroling the rebel prisoners which might have to pass through them in order to reach their homes. I felt certain that Davis and his cabinet would endeavor to escape to the west side of the Mississippi River, notwithstanding the armistice and surrender, and therefore gave instructions to the different detachments of my command to look out for and capture him and all other persons of rank or authority in the rebel Government.
On the 28th of April Brevet Major-General Upton was ordered with a detachment of his division (the Fourth) to proceed by rail to Augusta, � while the balance of the division, under Bvt. Brig. Gen. E. F. Winslow, was ordered to march by the most direct route to Atlanta--a regiment under Col. B. B. Eggleston having been sent by rail to that place immediately after the receipt of General Sherman's telegram. General E. M. McCook, commanding the First Division, with a detachment of 700 men, was directed to proceed by rail to Albany, Ga., and march thence by the most direct route to Tallahassee, Fla., while General Croxton, with the balance of the division, was held at Macon, with orders issued subsequently to watch the line of the Ocmulgee River from the mouth of Yellow Creek to Macon. Bvt. Brig. Gen. R. H. G. Minty, commanding the Second Division (General Long having been wounded at Selma), was directed about the same time to send detachments to Cuthbert and Eufaula, to watch the line of the Ocmulgee from the right of the First Division to Abbeville, and as much of the Flint and Chattahoochee to the rear as practicable. The ostensible and principal object of this disposition of troops was to secure prisoners and military stores and to take possession of the important strategic points and lines of communication; but the different commanders were directed to keep a vigilant watch for Davis and other members of the rebel Government. The first direct information I received of Davis' movements was on the 23d of April from a citizen who had seen him at Charlotte, N. C., only three or four days before, and had learned there that he was on his way with a train and an escort of cavalry to the south intending to go to the Trans-Mississippi Department. This information was regarded as entirely reliable, and hence the officers in charge of the different detachments afterward sent out were directed to dispose of their commands so as to have all roads and crossings vigilantly watched. It was first thought that Davis would call about him a select force and endeavor to escape by marching to the westward through the hilly country of Northern Georgia. To prevent this Colonel Eggleston was directed to watch the country in all directions from Atlanta. Bvt. Brig. Gen. A. J. Alexander, with the Second Brigade of Upton's division, having reached Atlanta in advance of the division, was directed by General Winslow to scout the country to the northward as far as Dalton, or until he should meet the troops under General Steedman in that region. On beginning his march from Macon, General Alexander was authorized to detach an officer and twenty picked men, disguised as rebel soldiers, for the purpose of trying to obtain definite information of Davis' movements. This party was place under the command of Lieut. Joseph A. O. Yeoman, First Ohio Cavalry, and at the time acting inspector-general of the brigade. Verbal instructions were also given to other brigade and division commanders to make similar detachments. General Croxton was directed to send a small party toward Talladega by the route upon which he had marched from that place, while Colonel Eggleston was directed to send a party by rail to West Point. By these means it was believed that all considerable detachments of rebels would be apprehended, and that such information would be obtained as would enable us to secure the principal rebel leaders if they should undertake to pass through the country in any other way than as individual fugitives. In declaring the armistice of Sherman null and void the Secretary of War had directed that my command should resume active operations and endeavor to arrest the fugitive rebel chiefs. I accordingly notified him and General Thomas by telegraph of the dispositions I had made, and that I had no doubt of accomplishing the desired object, but having forwarded the records of my command to the Adjutant-General's Department, as required by Army Regulations, and been denied copies of the documents relating to these matters, I cannot now fix the exact dates of these dispatches.
After a rapid march toward the upper crossings of the Savannah River in Northeastern Georgia, Lieutenant Yeoman's detachment met and joined Davis' party, escorted by Dibrell's and Ferguson's divisions of cavalry, probably under Wheeler in person, and continued with them several days, watching for an opportunity to seize and carry off the rebel chief. He was frustrated by the vigilance of the rebel escort. At Washington, Ga., the rebel authorities must have heard that Atlanta was occupied by our troops, and that they could not pass that point without a fight. They halted and for some time acted with irresolution in regard to their future course. The cavalry force which had remained true to Davis, estimated at five brigades and probably numbering 2,000 men, now became mutinous and declined to go any farther. They were disbanded and partially paid off in coin, which had been brought to that point in wagons. Lieutenant Yeoman lost sight of Davis at this time, but dividing his party into three or four small detachments sought again to obtain definite information of his movements, but for twenty-four hours was unsuccessful. Persevering in his efforts he became convinced that Davis had relinquished his idea of going into Alabama, and would probably try to reach the Gulf or South Atlantic Coast and escape by sea. Couriers were sent with this information to General Alexander, and by him duly transmitted to me at Macon. The same conclusion had already been forced upon me by information derived from various other sources, and from the nature of the case it seemed quite probable. With railroad communications through Northern Georgia, and a division of 4,000 national cavalry operating about Atlanta, it would have been next to impossible for a party of fugitives, however small, to traverse that region by the ordinary roads. This must have been clear to the rebels. From these circumstances I became fully convinced that Davis would either flee in disguise and unattended, or endeavor to work his way southward into Florida. With the view of intercepting him in this attempt, I directed the crossings of the Ocmulgee River to be watched with renewed vigilance all the way from the neighborhood of Atlanta to Hawkinsville, and on the evening of May 6, I directed Brigadier-General Croxton to select the best regiment in his division, and to send it under its best officer, with orders to march eastward via Jeffersonville to Dublin, on the Oconee River, with the greatest possible speed, scouting the country well to the northward, and leaving detachments at the most important cross-roads, with instructions to keep a sharp lookout for all detachments of rebels. By these means it was hoped that Davis' line of march would be intersected and his movements discovered, in which event the commanding officer was instructed to follow wherever it might lead, until the fugitives should be overtaken and captured. General Croxton selected for this purpose the First Wisconsin Cavalry, commanded by Lieut. Col. Henry Harnden, an officer of spirit, experience, and resolution. During that day and the next the conviction that Davis would try to escape into Florida became so strong that I sent for General Minty, commanding Second Division, and in person directed him to select his best regiment and order it to march without delay to the southeastward, along the right bank of the Ocmulgee River, watching all the crossings between Hawkinsville and the Ohoopee River. In case of discovering the trail of the fugitives they were directed to follow it to the Gulf Coast, or till they should overtake and capture the party of whom they were in pursuit. General Minty selected for this purpose his own regiment, the Fourth Michigan Cavalry, commanded by Lieut. Col. Benjamin D. Pritchard, an excellent and dashing officer.
In the meantime General Upton, at Augusta, had sent me a dispatch advising me to offer a reward of $100,000 for the capture of Davis, urging that the Secretary of War would approve my action, and that it would induce even the rebels to assist in making the capture. Not caring, however, to assume the responsibility of committing the Government in this way, I authorized him to issue a proclamation offering a reward of $100,000 to be paid out of such money as might be found in the possession of Davis or his party. This was done, and copies were scattered throughout the country as early as the 6th of May. As soon as it was known at Atlanta that Davis' cavalry escort had disbanded, General Alexander, with 500 picked men and horses of his command, crossed to the right or northern bank of the Chattahoochee River, occupied all the fords west of the Atlanta and Chattanooga Railroad, watched the passes of the Allatoona Mountains and the main crossings of the Etowah River, and, with various detachments of his small command, patrolled all the main roads in that region day and night until he received news of Davis' capture in another quarter. The final disposition of my command may be described as follows: Major-General Upton with parts of two regiments occupied Augusta, and kept a vigilant watch over the whole country in that vicinity, and informed me by telegraph of everything important which came under his observation. General Winslow, with the larger part of that division, occupied Atlanta and scouted the country in all directions from that place. General Alexander, with 500 picked men, patrolled the country north of the Chattahoochee, while detachments occupied Griffin and Jonesborough, closely watching the crossings of the Ocmulgee and scouting the country to the eastward. Colonel Eggleston, commanding the post of Atlanta, had also sent a detachment to West Point to watch the Alabama line in that quarter. General Croxton, with the main body of the First Division in the vicinity of Macon, had sent a detachment, under my direction, to the mountain region of Alabama, marching by the way of Carrollton to Talladega, and another through Northeastern Georgia toward North Carolina, and was also engaged in watching the Ocmulgee from the right of the Fourth Division to Macon, and in scouting the country to his front and rear. General Minty, commanding the Second Division, was scouting the country to the southeast, watching the lower crossings of the Ocmulgee, and had small parties at all the important points on the Southwestern Railroad and in Western and Southwestern Georgia. Detachments of the Seventh Pennsylvania Cavalry occupied Cuthbert, Eufaula, Columbus, and Bainbridge, and kept a vigilant watch over the lower Flint and Chattahoochee, while General McCook, with a detachment of his division at Albany, and 700 men between there and Tallahassee, Fla., was scouting the country to the north and eastward. We also had rail and telegraphic communication from my headquarters at Macon with Atlanta, Augusta, West Point, Milledgeville, Eatonton, Albany, and Eufaula. By inspecting the map herewith it will be seen that my force of nearly 15,000 cavalry were occupying a well-defined and almost continuous line from Kingston, Ga., to Tallahassee, Fla., with detachments and scouts well out in all directions to the front and rear. From this it will be difficult to perceive how Davis and his party could possibly hope to escape. From the time that they were reported at Charlotte till the final capture I was kept informed of their general movements, and was enabled thereby to dispose of my command in such a manner as to render their capture morally certain. As reported by General Winslow, rumors came in from all directions, but by carefully weighing them the truth became sufficiently manifest to enable me to act with confidence and decision. It is to be regretted now, however, that the hurry of events precluded the use of written orders. In nearly every instance my instructions were given verbally to the division commanders, and by them in turn transmitted verbally to their subordinates. Such written dispatches and orders as were given are preserved in the records pertaining to the Cavalry Corps of the Military Division of the Mississippi, now on file in the Adjutant-General's Office.
In pursuance of my instructions to General Croxton, heretofore recited, Lieut. Col. Henry Harnden, with three officers and 150 men of the First Wisconsin Cavalry, left Macon on the evening of May 6, 1865, and marched rapidly, via Jeffersonville, toward Dublin, on the Oconee River. At Jeffersonville Colonel Harnden left one officer and thirty-five men, with orders to scout the country in all directions for reliable information in regard to the route of Davis' flight. With the balance of his command he continued the march all night and the next day, about 7 p.m. reaching Dublin. During the night and day he had sent out scouts and small parties on all the side roads, in the hope of finding the trail of the party for whom he was looking. Nothing of importance occurred till after he had bivouacked for the night. The white inhabitants of that place expressed entire ignorance and indifference in regard to the movements of important rebels, but were unusually profuse in their offers of hospitality to Colonel Harnden. This, together with the conduct of the colored servants, excited his suspicions, though he gained no valuable intelligence till about midnight, at which time he was informed by a negro man, who went to his camp for that purpose, that Davis with his wife and family had passed through Dublin that day, going south on the river road. The negro reported that the party in question had eight wagons with them, and that another party had gone southward on the other side of the Oconee River. His information seems to have been of the most explicit and circumstantial character. He had heard the lady called Mrs. Davis, and a gentleman spoken of as "President Davis," and said that Mr. Davis had not crossed the river at the regular ferry with the rest of the party, but had gone about three miles lower down and crossed on a small flat-boat, and rejoined the party with the wagons near the outskirts of the town, and that they had all gone toward the south together. The colored man reported Mr. Davis as mounted upon a fine bay horse, and told his story so circumstantially that Colonel Harnden could not help believing it. The ferryman was called up and examined, but either through stupidity or design, succeeded in withholding whatever he knew in regard to the case. But in view of the facts already elicited, after detailing Lieutenant Lane and sixty men to remain at Dublin, and to scout the country in all directions, Colonel Harnden, at an early hour in the morning, began the pursuit of the party just mentioned. Five miles below Dublin he obtained additional information from a woman which left him no room to doubt that he was on the track of Davis in person. He dispatched a messenger to inform General Croxton of his good fortune, and pushed rapidly in pursuit. The trail led southward through a region of pine forests and cypress, almost uninhabited, and therefore affording no food for either men or horses. The rain began to fall, and as there was no road, the tracks of the wagon wheels upon the sandy soil were soon obliterated. A citizen was pressed and compelled to act as guide till the trail was again discovered. The pursuit was continued with renewed vigor, but, as the wagon tracks were again lost in the swamp bordering on Alligator Creek, the pursuing party were again delayed till a citizen could be found to guide them to the road upon which the trail was again visible. Colonel Harnden reports this day to have been one of great toil to both men and horses. They had marched forty miles through an almost trackless forest, much of the way under the rain, and in water up to their saddle girths. They bivouacked after dark on the borders of Gum Swamp, and during the night were again drenched by rain. Before daylight of the 9th they renewed their march, their route leading almost southwest, through swamp and wilderness, to Brown's Ferry, where they crossed to the south side of the Ocmulgee River. In his anxiety to ferry his command over rapidly, Colonel Harnden allowed the boat to be overloaded. A plank near the bow was sprung loose, causing the boat to leak badly, and, as no means were at hand with which to make repairs, lighter loads had to be carried. This prolonged the crossing nearly two hours. Colonel Harnden learned from the ferryman that the party he was pursuing had crossed about 1 a.m. that morning, and were only a few hours ahead of him on the road leading to Irwinville. At Abbeville, a village of three families, he halted to feed, and just as he was renewing his march he met the advance party of the Fourth Michigan Cavalry, Lieut. Col. B. D. Pritchard commanding, moving on the road from Hawkinsville. Ordering his detachment to continue its march, Colonel Harnden rode to meet Colonel Pritchard, and gave him such information in regard to Davis' movements as he had been able to gather. This was about 3 p.m. After a conversation between these officers, the precise details of which are variously reported, they separated, Colonel Harnden to rejoin his command, already an hour or more in advance, and Colonel Pritchard continuing his march along the south side of the Ocmulgee.
It will be remembered that Colonel Pritchard had begun his march from the vicinity of Macon, on the evening of May 7, under verbal orders given him by General Minty, in pursuance of my instructions. His attention was particularly directed to the crossings of the Ocmulgee River, between Hawkinsville and Jacksonville and the mouth of the Ohoopee, with the object of intercepting Davis and such other rebel chiefs as might be making their way out of the country by the roads in that region. He had not gone more than three miles before he obtained such additional information in regard to the party as convinced him that it was his duty to join in the pursuit. In this he was clearly right, and had he done otherwise would have been censurable for negligence and want of enterprise. Colonel Harnden having informed him that he had force enough to cope with Davis, Colonel Pritchard determined to march another road, leading to Irwinville by a more circuitous route. Why he did not send a courier on the trail pursued by Colonel Harnden, to notify the latter of his intentions, has not been explained. This would probably have prevented the collision which afterward occurred between his regiment and that of Colonel Harnden, and would not have rendered the capture of Davis less certain. This is not intended to reflect upon the conduct of Colonel Pritchard, for it is believed that this omission was simply an oversight which might have occurred to any confident and zealous officer. In carrying out the plan which he had adopted, Colonel Pritchard selected from his regiment 7 officers and 128 men, and at 4 o'clock began the pursuit, leaving the balance of his regiment under the command of Captain Hathaway, with orders to picket the river and scout the country in accordance with previous instructions. The route pursued by Colonel Pritchard led down the river nearly twelve miles to a point opposite Wilcox's Mill, and thence southwest for a distance of eighteen miles, through the pine forest to Irwinville. He reached this place at 1 a.m. of the 10th, and by representing his command as the rear guard of Davis' party, he succeeded in learning from the citizens that the party which he was searching for had encamped that night at dusk about a mile and a half out on the road toward Abbeville. Having secured a negro guide he turned the head of his column toward that place, and after moving out to within half a mile of the camp, halted, and dismounted twenty-five men under Lieutenant Purinton. This party was directed to move noiselessly through the woods to the north side of the camp, for the purpose of gaining a position in its rear, and preventing the possibility of escape. In case of discovery by the enemy they were directed to begin the attack, from wherever they might be, while Colonel Pritchard would charge upon the camp along the main road. Lieutenant Purinton having reached the point assigned him without an alarm, the attack was delayed till the first appearance of dawn, at which time Colonel Pritchard put his troops in motion, and continued his march to within a few rods of the camp, undiscovered. Having assured himself of his position he dashed upon the camp without delay, and in a few moments had secured its occupants and effects, and placed a guard of mounted men around the camp, with dismounted sentries at the tents and wagons. No resistance was offered, because the enemy had posted no sentries, and were, therefore, taken completely by surprise. Almost simultaneously with this dash of Colonel Pritchard and his detachment, sharp firing began in the direction of Abbeville and only a short distance from the camp. This turned out to be an engagement between the party under Lieutenant Purinton and the detachment of the First Wisconsin Cavalry, which, it seems, had followed the rebel trail the night before till it was no longer distinguishable in the dark, had gone into camp only two or three miles behind the party they had been pursuing so long, and had renewed the pursuit as soon as they could see to march. Both Colonel Pritchard and Colonel Harnden were informed that Davis had been reported as having with him a well armed body guard of picked men, variously estimated at from ten to fifty. They therefore expected desperate resistance, and hence in the collision which occurred the men of both detachments seemed inspired by the greatest courage and determination. It was several moments before either party discovered that they were fighting our own people instead of the enemy. In this unfortunate affair two men of the Fourth Michigan were killed, and one officer wounded, while three men of the First Wisconsin were severely and several slightly wounded.
It is difficult under the circumstances as detailed to perceive how this accident could have been avoided. Colonel Harnden certainly had no means of knowing and no reason to suspect that time party whom he had found in his front were any other than the rebels he had been pursuing, while Colonel Pritchard claims that he had cautioned Lieutenant Purinton particularly to keep a sharp lookout for the First Wisconsin, which he knew would approach from that direction. The hurry with which my command was subsequently mustered out of service and the absence of the principal officers prevented an investigation of the details of this affair and the circumstances which led to it. At this late day nothing more can be said of them than what is contained in the official documents already submitted, except that not the slightest blame was ever intended to be cast by me upon Colonel Harnden, as seems to have been assumed by the commission convened by the Secretary of War for the purpose of awarding the prize offered for the capture of Davis. During the firing of the skirmish just referred to the adjutant of the Fourth Michigan, Lieut. J. G. Dickinson, after having looked to the security of the rebel cam p and sent forward a n umber of the men who had straggled, was about to go to the front himself when his attention was called by one of the men to three persons in female attire who had apparently just left one of the large tents near by and were moving toward the thick woods. He started at once toward them and called out "halt!" but not hearing him or not caring to obey they continued to move off. Just then they were confronted by three men under direction of Corporal Munger, coming from the opposite direction. The corporal recognized one of the persons as Davis, advanced carbine, and demanded his surrender. The three persons halted, and by the actions of the two who afterward turned out to be women, all doubt as to the identity of the third person was removed. The individuals thus arrested were found to be Miss Howell, Mrs. Davis, and Jefferson Davis. As they walked back to the tent from which they had tried to escape, Lieutenant Dickinson observed that Davis' high-top boots were not covered by his disguise, which fact probably led to his recognition by Corporal Munger. As the friends of Davis have strenuously denied that he was disguised as a woman, it may not be improper to specify the exact articles of women's apparel which he had upon him when first seen by Lieutenant Dickinson and Corporal Munger. The former states that he "was one of the three persons dressed in woman's attire," and had "a black mantle wrapped about his head, through the top of which could be seen locks of his hair." Capt. G. W. Lawton, Fourth Michigan Cavalry, who published an account of the capture in the Atlantic Monthly of September, 1865, states explicitly, upon the testimony of the officers present, that Davis, in addition to his full suit of Confederate gray, had on "a lady's water-proof cloak, gathered at the waist, with a shawl drawn over the head, and carrying a tin pail." Colonel Pritchard says, in his official report, that he received from Mrs. Davis, on board the steamer Clyde, off Fortress Monroe, a water-proof cloak or robe, which was worn by Davis as a disguise, and which was identified by the men who saw it on him at the time of the capture. He secured the balance of the disguise the next day. It consisted of shawl, which was identified in a similar manner by both Mrs. Davis and the men. From these circumstances there seems to be no doubt whatever that Davis sought to avoid capture by assuming the dress of a woman or that the ladies of the party endeavored to pass him off upon his captors as one of themselves.
In addition to Davis and his family, Colonel Pritchard captured, at the same time, John H. Reagan, the rebel Postmaster-General; Col. B. N. Harrison, private secretary; Colonels Lubbock and Johnston, aides-de-camp to Davis; four inferior officers, and thirteen private soldiers, besides Miss Howell, two waiting maids, and several colored servants. As soon as breakfast could be prepared Colonel Pritchard, preceded by Colonel Harnden, began his march, with prisoners and wagons, for Macon, about 120 miles to the northwest of Irwinville. The next day he met a courier with copies of the President's proclamation offering a reward of $100,000 for the capture of Davis. This proclamation had been received and promulgated by me on the 9th, and hence the officers and men in pursuit of Davis were in no way inspired by the promise it contained. They performed their part from a higher sense of duty, and too much praise cannot be awarded to Colonels Pritchard and Harnden and the officers and men of their regiments who participated in the pursuit. Colonel Pritchard arrived at Macon on the 13th and reported at once with his prisoners at corps headquarters. Arrangements had already been made, under instructions from the Secretary of War, for forwarding Davis to the North, via Atlanta, Augusta, and Savannah. Colonel Pritchard, with a detachment of his regiment, was directed to deliver his prisoners safely into the custody of the Secretary of War. I also placed in his charge the person of James B. Clay, jr.,(*) for whose arrest a reward had also been offered by the President. Mr. Clay surrendered himself to me at Macon about the 11th of May, having informed me by telegraph from Western Georgia the day before that he would start for my headquarters without delay. A.H. Stephens was arrested by General Upton at Crawfordsville about the same time and also placed in charge of Colonel Pritchard. Brevet Major-General Upton was charged with making the necessary arrangements for forwarding the prisoners and escort safely to Savannah, in the department of General Gillmore. These arrangements were successfully carried out and the prisoners delivered at Fortress Monroe for safe-keeping on the 22d of May. My command had also arrested Mr. Mallory, the rebel Secretary of the Navy, Mr. Hill, senator, and Joseph E. Brown, Governor of Georgia. Breckinridge and Toombs managed to escape by traveling alone and as rapidly as possible, the former having passed through Tallahassee, Fla., only a few hours before the arrival of General McCook at that place.
Immediately after the capture of Davis the detachments and scouting parties of my command were assembled by their respective brigade and division commanders, and, after paroling the bulk of the rebel forces, amounting to about 59,000 men, that had been serving in Florida, Georgia, North and South Carolina, the various regiments were ordered North to be mustered out. From the foregoing narrative it will be seen that the first perfectly reliable information in regard to the movements of Davis was that sent in by Lieut. Joseph A. O. Yeoman, of General Alexander's staff; that the route actually pursued by Davis and his party after leaving Washington was first discovered by Lieutenant-Colonel Harnden at Dublin, and that the capture was actually made one mile and a half north of Irwinville, Ga., at dawn of May 10, by Lieut. Col. Benjamin D. Pritchard, with a detachment of 7 officers and 128 men of the Fourth Michigan Cavalry. These facts should have been fully developed before this time, but owing to the disbandment of my command, it was impossible till quite recently to obtain the reports of subordinate officers. Colonel Pritchard made his report, by my orders, directly to the Secretary of War, but omitted till last month to send me a copy. Colonel Harnden's report, indorsed by Colonel La Grange and General Croxton, together with that of General Minty's, were submitted in due time and forwarded to the Adjutant-General's Office. I forward herewith the reports of Generals Alexander and Winslow.
In my correspondence with the War Department just after the capture I recommended, probably without due consideration, that the reward of $100,000 offered by the President for the capture of Davis (or that part of it remaining after the families of the men killed in the pursuit had been amply provided for) should be divided according to the law of prize among the actual captors, and that Colonel Hamden and his men should receive medals of honor specially commemorating the part they had taken in the pursuit. This recommendation has not been carried into effect, but the commission, of which General Townsend was president, disallow the claims of Colonel Harnden, and recommend that the members of the Fourth Michigan Cavalry, scouting and picketing the Ocmulgee River over thirty miles north of Irwinville, as well as "the actual captors," shall be included in the distribution of the reward, on the ground that they were performing service of a "most important precautionary character." With just as much reason every other man of the entire cavalry force then on duty in Georgia should also be included in the distribution, as they were performing service of "a most important precautionary character incidental to the immediate purpose of the expedition, and such as could not, without an imputation of neglect of duty, have been omitted to be provided for." Colonel Harnden and his detachment, who were actually within gun sound of the capture, certainly deserve more consideration in this case than any one who remained behind, no matter what duty he was engaged in. I am therefore compelled, in equity and justice, to respectfully recommend, in the further consideration of this matter by the proper authorities, that the strict law of prize be observed. Under this law it seems to me that Colonel Harnden and Lieutenant Yeoman should receive share and share alike with the officers who were actually present at the capture; and I venture to hope that the men who accompanied Colonel Harnden to the vicinity of Irwinville may at least receive the medals of honor heretofore recommended. In making this recommendation I am not unmindful of the services performed by the balance of the corps, and desire to make special mention of Bvt. Maj. Gen. Emory Upton, Brigadier-General Croxton, Brevet Brigadier-Generals Winslow, Alexander, and Minty, and Colonels Eggleston and Howland. These officers and their commands performed the various duties assigned them with cheerfulness, intelligence, and zeal, and are entitled to the highest commendation. I transmit herewith a map showing the railroads, rivers, and important points mentioned in this report, and from which the movements and dispositions of the troops under my command may be fully understood.(*)
I am, sir, very respectfully, your obedient servant,
J. H. WILSON,
Lieut. Col. Thirty-fifth Infantry, Bvt. Maj. Gen., U.S. Army,
Late Major-General of Vols., Comdg. Cavalry Corps, M. D. M.
Bvt. Maj Gen. JOHN A. RAWLINS,
Chief of Staff, U. S. Army, Washington, D.C.
HEADQUARTERS ARMY OF THE UNITED STATES,
January 24, 1867.
Respectfully forwarded to the Secretary of War.
[Inclosure No. 1.]
CINCINNATI, November 10, 1866.
DEAR SIR: I have the honor to make the following brief report of the operations of the Fourth Division, Cavalry Corps, Military Division of the Mississippi, during the pursuit and capture of Jefferson Davis. Having at hand little data and no records, I cannot make the statement as full as I would like, but, as the part taken by this division was auxiliary rather than successful, perhaps it is not very important that every detail should be preserved:
About the 1st of May, 1865, 300 men, composed of about equal numbers of the Third and Fourth Iowa Cavalry, were sent to Augusta, being accompanied by Bvt. Maj. Gen. Emory Upton, commanding the Fourth Division. The horses of this body of men were left with their respective regiments, and they went, via Atlanta, by railroad. They did not rejoin their commands until after the capture of Mr. Davis had been reported. At or about the same time the First Ohio Cavalry, Col. B. B. Eggleston commanding, moved also from Macon to Atlanta, marching there in four days. Meantime the colonel had preceded the regiment by railroad, having with him a portion of his regiment. On arriving at Atlanta he, acting under orders from corps headquarters, assumed command of that city, his regiment acting as provost guard. In obedience to orders received from yourself in person, I removed the remaining portions of the division toward Atlanta, leaving Macon on the morning of May 5, and marching that day five miles beyond Forsyth. Having your instructions to keep a lookout for Davis, I wished to gain the neighborhood of Atlanta as early as practicable (keeping also in view the condition of my horses); therefore moved the next day to Griffin, where I received from you the information that the ex-President was trying to escape across Georgia. Leaving Griffin early on the morning of the 7th, I moved through Jonesborough and bivouacked four or five miles north. Being now near Atlanta and in constant communication with Colonel Eggleston, who had scouts well out to the north and east, I had left one company, Fourth Iowa, Captain Pray, at Griffin and one company, Third Iowa, at Jonesborough, with instructions to thoroughly scour the whole neighboring country, particularly to the east, and to at once communicate by couriers all credible information. The most reliable information obtained to this time, and during the 8th instant, led me to believe that Davis had not yet approached the line of the Ocmulgee River and the towns west of the same. I frequently talked with persons who saw him at Washington, Ga. Rumors without number now came from every direction, and if I had obeyed the impulses they gave rise to in almost every mind I should soon have sent out my whole force by detail, and with the expectation that each squad or company would be on the right trail. Believing, however, that I now held a central position to move either south, west, east, or northwest, I remained at this camp on the line of the railroad and waited more definite information, conveying to corps headquarters such as I deemed of moment or value. Becoming convinced that Mr. Davis had not crossed my lines of communication and that he had dispensed with any considerable escort, I moved on the 9th to Atlanta, and, after consultation with Colonel Eggleston and General A. J. Alexander, decided to let the latter take 200 men of his brigade (the Second) and move up to hold the mountain passes on the line of the Western and Atlantic Railroad as far as Allatoona or Kingston. I now communicated again to the major-general commanding corps my positive belief that Mr. Davis had not come west of the Ocmulgee north of Macon, and my further belief that he would endeavor to escape by going south on the east of that stream (using as heretofore the telegraph mainly). I found that Colonel Eggleston had sent a force of the First Ohio Cavalry southwest to Alabama, acting in obedience to orders from his superiors, and at once directed him to recall the same. I also communicated to Major-General Upton the information I had, as well as my past and contemplated future action, receiving in return his full approval of all. The entire country for several days' march from Atlanta was utterly destitute of food for man or horse, therefore, rations for both must be taken for every movement. Before reaching Atlanta I had had rations prepared in that place for any movement likely to take place, and if there had been any real necessity I could have started with, say, 1,000 well-mounted men in any direction at very short notice. The news of the capture of the great rebel soon reached us, and the entire force was early thereafter reassembled at and near Atlanta. This, general, in brief, constitutes the account of the part taken by the Fourth Division in this effort, and, though no apparent success attended the movements, perhaps they were conducive to that of the parties which did succeed. For my part I am quite willing that the entire credit of the operation shall rest with the expeditions from Macon eastward, and really think, as a commanding officer, I am more entitled to praise for withholding my force from dispersion and for keeping it in hand than for all that was done toward the capture.
Regretting that I have not at hand more perfect information, yet trusting this story is long enough, I am, your obedient servant,
E. F. WINSLOW,
Late Brevet Brigadier-General.
Maj. Gen. JAMES H. WILSON.
[Inclosure No. 2.]
FORT UNION, N. MEX., November 8, 1866.
GENERAL: In compliance with your request of October 14, which has just reached me, I have the honor to make the following statement in regard to the capture of Jeff. Davis:
Shortly after the armistice between Generals Sherman and Johnston I was ordered to send one regiment of my brigade to Atlanta, rapidly, to apprehend Davis, who was reported moving in that direction with an escort of cavalry. I accordingly sent the First Ohio Cavalry, Col. B. B. Eggleston commanding. A few days after I was ordered to move to the same point with the remainder of my brigade. Previous to this movement I obtained permission from the major-general commanding the corps to send an officer and twenty men, disguised in rebel clothing, to meet Davis, watch, and if possible capture him. This delicate operation I intrusted to Lieut. Joseph A. O. Yeoman, a dashing young officer of the First Ohio Cavalry, of great intelligence and coolness, and who was at that time acting as inspector-general for my brigade. Lieutenant Yeoman moved rapidly to Northeastern Georgia, where he met and joined Davis' escort, consisting of Dibrell's division of cavalry. He marched with them two or three days, but could not get an opportunity of seizing on the person of Davis on account of the close watch on every one who approached his person. At Washington, Ga. (I think), the forces under Dibrell heard that Atlanta was occupied by our troops, and that they could not pass that point without a fight, accordingly disbanded during the night, and sought their homes in small parties. Lieutenant Yeoman scattered his men among the various bands to try and get some trace of Davis, but for twenty-four hours was unsuccessful. He finally found he had abandoned the idea of going into Alabama, and was making south to leave the country. Lieutenant Yeoman kept the command at Atlanta advised of all his movements, and the commanding officer advised the major-general commanding the corps by telegraph. When the information came to Atlanta that the command of Dibrell had scattered, and that Davis was trying to escape in disguise, I took 500 picked men and horses of my command, crossed the right bank of the Chattahoochee, occupied all the fords below the railroad, the passes in the Allatoona Mountains, and the main crossings of the Etowah River. I also patrolled the main roads day and night, arresting every one passing, until I heard Davis had been arrested by a regiment sent out by the major-general commanding the corps. I trust Lieutenant Yeoman will receive some recognition of his services, as he was the only officer who really risked his life; and I believe the information furnished by him caused the major-general commanding to send out the party that made the arrest.
I am, general, very respectfully, your obedient servant,
A. J. ALEXANDER,
Capt. and Bvt. Col., U.S. Army, late Bvt. Brig. Gen. of Vols.,
Comdg. 2d Brig., 4th Div., Cav. Corps, Mil. Div. of the Miss.
Maj. Gen. JAMES H. WILSON, U.S. Army.