|Gen. Joseph E. Wheeler|
|Gen. William T. Sherman|
On the same day, Cheatham's Corps, in which Great Grandfather Nathan Oakes was serving, was ordered to move its camp 9 miles closer to Greensboro. The next day, the Confederate army was put on alert to move when ordered. Cheatham's Corps was then ordered to hold itself ready to move promptly at 11:00 AM, when the truce expired. At that hour, Cheatham's Corps marched 10 miles on the Center and Thomasville road to the Salem and Fayetteville road.
Thankfully, in spite of the threat of renewed conflict and the bitter feelings in Washington, there was no new outbreak of fighting. Johnston replied to Sherman the same day, agreeing to meet again at the Bennett house. On the 26th, the generals met, and Sherman offered the more stringent terms of a military surrender. Johnston agreed. The negotiations finally resulted in a Confederate surrender.
That afternoon, the news came to Cheatham's Corps that a peace agreement had been reached.
Concerning Johnston's leadership in the closing 2 months of the war Mark L. Bradley writes, "No other Confederate general—not even Robert E. Lee—could have accomplished more with so few resources in such a brief span." Indeed, when Johnston took command on February 23rd, he believed that the best he could hope for by continuing the war was to obtain "fair terms of peace" for his men and for the Southern people. In spite of that, Johnston managed to consolidate his scattered forces and finally fight his opponent at Bentonville with uncharacteristic boldness. At Smithfield, he reorganized his army into a formidable 30,000-man force. Had he and Lee been successful in uniting their armies, the combined Confederate force would have presented Sherman with a daunting challenge. After Lee's surrender, Johnston also could have chosen to withdraw his army south to continue the war. Rather, he clearly understood the necessity for negotiating a peace with Sherman, ultimately even in defiance of President Davis. Bradley notes finally, "During the final weeks of the war in the Old North State, Johnston's qualities as commander shone forth in their most favorable aspect."
* Confederate Secretary of War, Maj. Gen. John C. Breckenridge, was also present at this meeting. One thing that made this remarkable was that Breckenridge had been Vice President of the United States under James Buchanan. Due to his former status, Sherman advised Breckenridge to flee the country rather than surrender.