The End of the Civil War: Summary & Timeline

Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Amy Troolin

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.

Contrary to popular belief, the Civil War did not end when Confederate General Robert E. Lee surrendered at Appomattox Court House. It actually continued for over two months. In this lesson, we will examine the final days of the Civil War.

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.

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  • 1:04 Johnston Surrenders
  • 2:12 Taylor Surrenders
  • 2:57 Davis Captured
  • 3:58 Smith Surrenders
  • 4:58 Stand Watie Surrenders
  • 5:38 Lesson Summary
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Johnston Surrenders

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.

Taylor Surrenders

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.

Davis Captured

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.

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