Grand Review of the Armies was a military
procession and celebration in Washington, D.C., on May 23 and May 24, 1865, following the close of
the American Civil War.
Grand Review of the Armies
Elements of the Union Army
through the streets of the capital to receive accolades from the
crowds and reviewing politicians, officials, and prominent
citizens, including the President of the United
, Andrew Johnson
On May 10, Johnson had declared that the rebellion and armed
resistance was virtually at an end, and had made plans with
government authorities for a formal review to honor the troops.
One of his
side goals was to change the mood of the capital, which was still
in mourning following the assassination of Abraham Lincoln the month before at Ford's Theater.
Three of the leading Federal armies were
close enough to participate in the procession. The Army of the Tennessee
train. The Army of Georgia
under the command of William T.
, had just completed its
accepted the surrender of the largest remaining Confederate army
, that of Joseph E. Johnston
. It arrived from North Carolina in mid-May and camped around the capital city in
various locations, across the Potomac
River from the Army of the
Potomac, fresh off its victories over Robert E. Lee in Virginia.
had arrived in Washington on May 12
in the three armies who had not seen each other for some time (in
some cases since before the war) communed and renewed
acquaintances, while at times, the common infantrymen engaged in
verbal sparring (and sometimes fisticuffs) in the town's taverns
and bars over which army was superior. Sherman, concerned that his
Westerners would not present as polished an image as the eastern
army, drilled his forces and insisted that uniforms be cleaned,
buttons and brass shined, and that bayonets glistened.
At 9:00 a.m. on a bright sunny May 23, a signal gun fired a single
shot and Maj. Gen. George Gordon
Meade, the victor of Gettysburg, led the estimated 80,000 men of Army of the
Potomac down the streets of Washington from Capitol Hill down Pennsylvania Avenue past crowds that numbered into the
The infantry marched with 12 men across the road,
followed by the divisional and corps artillery, then an array of
cavalry regiments that stretched for another seven miles.
was one of gaiety and celebration, and the crowds and soldiers
frequently engaged in singing patriotic songs as the procession of
victorious soldiers snaked its way towards the reviewing stand in
front of the White
House, where President Johnson, general-in-chief Ulysses S. Grant
, senior military leaders, the
Cabinet, and leading government officials awaited. At the head of
his troops, Meade dismounted when he arrived at the reviewing stand
and joined the dignitaries to salute his men, who passed for over
On the following day at 10:00 a.m., Sherman led the 65,000 men of
the Army of the Tennessee and the Army of Georgia, with an
uncharacteristic semblance of military precision, past the admiring
celebrities, most of which had never seen him before. For six hours under
bright sunshine, the men who had marched through Georgia and those
who had destroyed John Bell Hood's
army in Tennessee now paraded in front of joyous throngs lining the
People peered from windows and rooftops for their
first glimpse of this western army. Unlike Meade's army, which had more
military precision, Sherman's Georgia force was trailed by a vast
crowd of people who had accompanied the army up from Savannah—freed blacks, laborers, adventurers, scavengers,
etc. At the very end was a vast herd of cattle and other livestock
that had been taken from Carolina farms.
Within a week after the celebrations, the two armies were disbanded
and many of the volunteer regiments and batteries were sent home to
be mustered out of the army.
Although there would be further guerrilla actions (particularly
with respect to armed criminal factions, such as the James-Younger Gang
) and racial violence
in the South (including the rise of the Ku
), military conflict between the North and the South
had ended. The disbandment of the Union armies and the return home
of fathers, brothers, and sons signaled to the population at large
that they could begin their return to a normal life and that the
end had come for the American Civil War.