How Did The Civil War End?

Candace Lehman, Amy Troolin
  • Author
    Candace Lehman

    Candace Lehman has taught all subject areas in 4th and 5th grade for over 12 years. She has a Bachelors of Science in Elementary Education from Missouri State University. She holds a lifetime teaching certificate in the state of Missouri for Birth-6th Grade.

  • 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.

How did the Civil War end? When did the Civil War end? Learn about what ended the Civil War, the Civil War start and end date, and other Civil War facts. Updated: 06/21/2021

How Did the Civil War End?

The American Civil War began on April 12, 1861 at Fort Sumter and was officially over on August 20, 1866 by Proclamation of President Andrew Johnson. The war was a fight between the Union (Northern States) and the Confederacy (Southern States). Many events led to the collapse of the Confederacy and the victory of the Union. In the spring of 1865, General Robert E. Lee surrendered causing several other generals to surrender as well. A final blow was when Confederate President, Jefferson Davis, was captured and imprisoned by the Union.

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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
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What Ended the Civil War?

When did the Civil War end? The civil war officially ended on August 20, 1966 when President Andrew Johnson issued his Proclamation. There were many facts and events that led up to the ending of the war.

President Lincoln met with Union Army generals in Antietam, Maryland during the Civil War.

President Lincoln Civil War

  • The Union was better equipped for war with trained soldiers, superior naval forces, the effective leadership of President Abraham Lincoln, and superior financial and industrial resources.
  • One of the major turning points of the Civil War was the Battle of Gettysburg on July 1-3, 1863 in combination with the Battle of Vicksburg that ended on July 4, 1863. The aftermath of these battles left the Union with the upper hand and the Confederacy weak and on the verge of collapse.
  • The Union and the Confederacy both lost massive amounts of soldiers in the Battle of Gettysburg and the Battle of Vicksburg. However, the Confederacy lost a higher percentage of soldiers as well as many vital high ranking officers. The leadership of the Confederacy was deeply shaken and never recovered after these battles.
  • The Union gained control of the Mississippi River. The Mississippi River was a huge resource to the Confederacy. It was their main access to transportation and communication between the eastern and western halves of the Southern States. The Mississippi River split the Confederacy down the middle, so when the Union gained control, it was no longer possible for the eastern side of the Confederacy to contact or get supplies to the western side of the Confederacy.

Timeline for the End of the Civil War

This burning State House in South Carolina depicts some of the devastation the Civil War caused for Southern States.

Burning State House

The Civil War civil war start and end date was April 12, 1861 (start date) to August 20, 1966 (end date).

  • April 12-14, 1861: Confederate soldiers attacked the Union at Fort Sumter at 4:30 a.m. This was the beginning of the American Civil War.
  • July 12, 1861: The first major battle was the Battle of Bull Run near Manassas in Virginia. The Confederacy won this battle.
  • April 6-7, 1862: The Battle of Shiloh took place in Tennessee. This was possibly the bloodiest battle of the war and both sides suffered heavy casualties. The Union won this battle.
  • January 1, 1863: President Lincoln issued his Emancipation Proclamation that stated all people in the United States are free. This also allowed freed slaves to join the Union Armies, thus raising the number of Union soldiers by an estimated 180,000.
  • July 1-3, 1863: The Battle of Gettysburg took place in Tennessee. The Union win was the turning point of the war.
  • May-July 4, 1863: The Battle of Vicksburg took place in Mississippi. The Union win gave them complete control of the Mississippi River. The river was a vital part of the Confederacy's transportation and communication systems.
  • September 2, 1864: Union General William T. Sherman captured Atlanta, GA. Atlanta was the center of military operations for the Confederacy. The Confederacy lost access to their vital railway and supply center.
  • April 9, 1865: Confederate General Robert E Lee surrendered to Union forces at Appomattox Court House. This is considered by some historians to be the end of the Civil War due to the significance this had for the Confederacy. General Lee's surrender marked the beginning of the end of the Civil War. Once Lee surrendered, Confederate President Jefferson Davis went into hiding for fear of capture, and more Confederate army generals made the choice to surrender as well.
  • April 14-15, 1865" President Lincoln was assassinated by John Wilkes Booth. Vice President Andrew Johnson became the 17th President of the United States.
  • April 26, 1865: Confederate leader Joseph E Johnson surrendered his army to General Sherman.
  • May 10, 1865: Confederate President Jefferson Davis was captured and imprisoned by the Union. The war was considered to be over and Reconstruction began.
  • May 12-13, 1865: The last battle took place at Palmito Ranch in Texas.
  • May 26, 1865 : The last surrender occurred when Confederate leader Edmond Kirby Smith surrendered to Edward Canby.
  • August 20, 1866: The Civil War officially ended with President Andrew Johnson's Presidential Proclamation

What Battle Ended the Civil War?

There was not one battle that ended the Civil War. It actually was the combination of several battles. The Confederacy lost multiple battles to the Union, and this caused the Confederacy to lose the war. Two pivotal events were:

  • The Battle of Gettysburg
  • The capture of Vicksburg

The Battle of Gettysburg

The Battle of Gettysburg took place on July 1-3, 1863 in Gettysburg, Tennessee. Confederate General Robert E. Lee withdrew from the battle and retreated. This was a crushing defeat for the Confederacy, who lost over 1/3 of their soldiers and high ranking officials. This contributed tremendously to the end of the Civil War.

The Capture of Vicksburg

This photo captures a cannon fire at the Battle of Vicksburg.

Battle of Vicksburg

The Battle of Vicksburg ended on July 4, 1863 in Vicksburg, Mississippi. This was a substantial victory for the Union Army since winning this battle gave them complete control of the Mississippi River. The Mississippi River had been vital to the Confederacy for transportation between states to the east and the states to the west. The Mississippi River split the Confederacy in half; therefore, control of the river was vital for military operations. The western states were isolated after this battle and were not able receive any support from the Confederacy.

Military Surrenders and the End of the War

There was not just one military surrender that ended the Civil War. Many armies, forces, and commanders surrendered at different times with different conditions. The Confederate President, Jefferson Davis, did not commission any surrenders. The generals, forces, and commanders surrendered under their own judgement.

The Army of North Virginia

General Lee's surrender in 1865 marked a turning point in the war. General Robert E. Lee surrendered the Army of North Virginia to Union General Ulysses S. Grant on April 9, 1865 when he realized the Confederacy was not going to be able to break the Union lines and wanted to save the further destruction of the Southern states. This event is considered by some historians to be the end of the Civil War, since it held such a vital importance to the mentality of the Confederacy.

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Frequently Asked Questions

Why did the South lose the Civil War?

The South lost the war for many reasons that compounded together. They lost control of the Mississippi River and Atlanta GA. They lacked in financial resources and man power needed to overtake the Union.

What officially ended the civil war?

The official and formal end to the civil war came on August 20, 1866 with President Andrew Johnson's Presidential Proclamation.

How did the Civil War end who won?

The Civil War ended due to several events. Many Confederate Generals surrendered their armies and the Confederate President was captured. The Union (the Northern States) won the Civil War.

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