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In Their Own Words

April 25, 1865

Surrender of Lee and Assasination of Lincoln Noted in Diary

In Columbus, Georgia, planter and businessman John Banks recorded in his diary the sad news that Lee had surrendered to Grant. He further noted the assassination of Abraham Lincoln and U.S. secretary of state William Seward (who had been wounded in the assassination plot but recovered):

“Now for a dark page. Have just received a dispatch that General Lee had been overpowered by General Grant’s army and had surrendered. Grant had about two hundred thousand men, while Lee had only about ten thousand fighting men. This is sad news to come just after the destruction of our town. All is uncertain about our fate. Wilson’s army that took Columbus, moved off in the direction of Macon. The surrender of General Lee has caused a cessation of fighting and Wilson’s troops have not gone into Macon. Hopes are now entertained that the war is at an end but the details not understood. None of my sons except Elbert in the field, have not heard from him for a long time but suppose he is somewhere in North Carolina and that he had not joined Lee’s army.

“President Lincoln and Secretary Seward were killed in Washington City. We got news last week and no contradiction of it yet; it is generally believed. We have been overpowered and must now wind up on the best terms we can. We learn that [Alexander] Stephens and [John Archibald] Campbell are commissioned to arrange it.”

Source: John Banks, Autobiography of John Banks, 1797 - 1870 (Austell, Ga.: privately printed by Elberta Leonard, 1936), p. 37.