Amy has MA degrees in History, English, and Theology. She has taught college English and religious education classes and currently works as a freelance writer.
The War Continues
Most people believe that Confederate General Robert E. Lee's surrender to Union General Ulysses S. Grant at Appomattox Court House on April 9th, 1865, marked the end of the Civil War. Actually, the war continued for over two more months. Lee was in control of only one of the Confederate armies - the Army of Northern Virginia. There were other armies in other parts of the Confederacy that had to surrender if the war was to be truly over, and their commanders weren't ready to give up quite yet.
Because the Confederate government was no longer functioning after the fall of Richmond and could not issue a blanket surrender, each commander had to surrender his own forces. If a commander refused, the fight continued. In fact, Union and Confederate soldiers clashed in nearly 100 small engagements after Appomattox.
Confederate General Joseph Johnston was in North Carolina, chasing after Union General William T. Sherman, who was marching his forces from Georgia through North Carolina and creating a path of destruction in his wake. Johnston had only about 30,000 soldiers to Sherman's nearly 80,000, so the Confederate general knew that it was only a matter of time before he would have to surrender.
Johnston met with Sherman on April 16th, and after two days of negotiations, the generals drew up peace terms. Sherman, however, overstepped the bounds of his authority by agreeing to political terms, including recognizing the governments of the Southern states. The U.S. government refused to approve this agreement, so Johnston and Sherman started over on April 26th. This time they came up with terms of surrender that were limited to military matters. Sherman's superiors quickly approved, and Johnston's army officially laid down its arms on May 3rd.
Confederate General Richard Taylor, who was in charge of about 12,000 men in the Department of Alabama, Mississippi, and East Louisiana, hesitated a bit longer than Johnston. He met with Union General E.R.S. Canby on April 30th. The two had quite a nice little party, complete with champagne, but they could not come to a peace agreement.
Two days later, however, Taylor learned of Johnston's surrender. He realized that the time for a decision was upon him, and he chose to surrender on May 4th. Taylor saw to it that his men had safe transportation home before he allowed Canby to personally escort him to his own home in New Orleans.
As Lee, Johnston, and Taylor were surrendering their armies and heading for home, Confederate President Jefferson Davis was still on the run. He had evacuated Richmond on April 2nd with the rest of the Confederate government and was now a hunted man. On the evening of May 9th, Davis' party set up camp near Irwinville, Georgia. Early the next morning, May 10th, soldiers from the First Wisconsin and Fourth Michigan regiments surrounded Davis' camp.
In his haste to escape, the president grabbed his wife's overcoat (perhaps by mistake or because it was the first thing he saw), threw it on, and headed for a nearby creek. A Michigan soldier soon caught up with him, probably chuckled to see Davis wearing a woman's coat, and arrested the Confederate leader. Davis was indicted for treason and remained in prison for two years before he was released in 1867.
Out West, Confederate General Kirby Smith, who was in charge of the Trans-Mississippi Department, wasn't willing to give up as quickly as his fellow generals or even the president. From his headquarters in West Texas, he was still planning battles, including the one that took place on May 12th through the13th at Palmito Ranch in Texas. In this final land battle of the Civil War, approximately 350 Confederates faced off against over 800 Union soldiers and won!
Soon afterward, however, the Confederates heard about the defeats and surrenders back East, and the bottom dropped out of their morale. On May, the 18th, Smith began a stagecoach tour to rally his troops. While he was away, however, a colleague surrendered for him on May 26th. When Smith returned to his headquarters the next day, he quickly realized he had no more troops to rally. He fled to Mexico.
Stand Watie Surrenders
One Confederate general held out longer than even Kirby Smith. General Stand Watie was in charge of Confederate troops in Indian Territory. He was also a Cherokee chief, and he was completely unwilling to admit defeat. Finally, however, he realized that he was standing alone against the entire U.S. government, which did not have a reputation for treating Native Americans fairly or moderately. He surrendered on June 23rd, earning the distinction of being the last Confederate general to give up his command. With his surrender, the Civil War was finally, truly over.
The Civil War did not end on April 9th, 1865, when Confederate General Robert E. Lee surrendered to Union General Ulysses S. Grant at Appomattox Court House. Several other Confederate commanders still needed to surrender their forces because the Confederate government was no longer functioning and could not issue a blanket surrender.
Confederate General Joseph Johnston surrendered to Union General William T. Sherman in North Carolina on April 26th, and Confederate General Richard Taylor of the Department of Alabama, Mississippi, and East Louisiana surrendered to Union General E.R.S. Canby on May 4th. On May 10th, Union troops finally caught up with Confederate President Jefferson Davis, who had been on the run since the fall of Richmond over a month before.
In the West, Confederate General Kirby Smith refused to give up. Some of his forces clashed with Union soldiers at Palmito Ranch on May 12th through the 13th and actually won the battle, but one of Smith's colleagues surrendered in the general's absence on May 26th. Finally, Confederate General and Cherokee Chief Stand Watie surrendered his Indian Territory command on June 23rd. The Civil War was finally over.
Upon completion of this lesson, you should be able to:
- Identify the major players after Lee's surrender who continued the war
- Recognize that the Civil War did not end until two months after Appomattox
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