The Surrender of the Confederate Armies

        "The final campaign of the Army of Northern Virginia began March 25, 1865, when Gen. Robert E. Lee sought to break Gen. Ulysses S. Grant's ever-tightening stranglehold at Petersburg, Va., by attacking the Federal position at Fort Stedman. The assault failed, and when Grant counterattacked a week later at Five Forks, 1-2 April, the thin Confederate line snapped, and Lees skeleton forces abandoned Richmond and Petersburg.   Although fighting would continue for the next week, it would be to no avail.  Lee was beaten and would ask for surrender terms on April 9."

        This is what most consider to be the end of the Civil War.  However, while the war in the East was over, there were still Confederate armies under arms elsewhere.  When Lee surrendered to Grant at Appomattox he only surrendered the Army of Northern Virginia.  The Confederacy itself could not surrender because by now there was no "Confederacy."  Richmond had fallen, the government officials had fled, and many of the papers had been burned.  It would be up to each commander in the field to surrender his army as the news from the East reached him.  The following are brief descriptions of how each Confederate fighting force surrendered.  

Gen. Robert E. Lee

        April 9, 1865.   Having arranged a truce and sent notes to Lt. Gen. Ulysses. S. Grant requesting a meeting, Confederate Gen. Robert E. lee awaited his response. Shortly after noon, 9 Apr. 1865, Grants reply came and Lee rode into the village of Appomattox to prepare for Grants arrival. Lees aide selected the home of Wilimer Mclean. Lee waited in the parlor.
        At about 1:30 p.m. Grant arrived with his staff. The 2 generals exchanged greetings and small talk, then Lee brought up the object of the meeting. Grant wrote out the surrender terms himself in an order book and handed it to Lee to read.
        The terms, proposed in an exchange of notes the previous day, were honorable: Surrendered officers and their troops were to be paroled and prohibited from taking up arms until properly exchanged, and arms and supplies were to be given over as captured property. After Lee had read the terms and added an omitted word, he ordered his aide to write a letter of acceptance. This done, at about 3:45 p.m. the generals exchanged documents.
        Riding back to his lines, Lee was swarmed by his adoring troops, many nearly hysterical with grief. Trying to soothe them with quiet phrases--you have done all your duty. Leave the results to God...-- he rode slowly on, followed by many who wept and implored him to say that they should fight on. The next day he issued his eloquent farewell to his army.
        On the morning of 11 Apr., following a spartan breakfast and tearful good-byes from his staff, the general mounted his warhorse, Traveler, and with a Union honor guard left Appomattox for home.

Gen. Joseph E. Johnston

        April 26,1865.   Following its strategic defeat at Bentonville, N.C., March 21, 1865, the Confederate army of Gen. Joseph E. Johnston was reduced to perhaps 30,000 effectives, less than half the size of Union Maj. Gen. William T. Sherman's Federal command. Though the Confederates had fought well at Bentonville, their leader had no illusions about stopping his adversary's inexorable march through North Carolina. When Maj. Gen. John M. Schofield's force, joining Sherman at Goldsborough March 24, swelled the Union ranks to 80,000, Johnston saw the end approaching. Dutifully, however, he followed Sherman's resumed march northward April 10. En route the Confederate commander learned of the evacuation of Petersburg and Richmond and of Gen. Robert E. Lee's surrender at Appomattox. This ended his long-held hope of joining Lee to oppose the invaders of the Carolinas.
        Arriving near Raleigh, Johnston at first attempted to have North Carolina Gov. Zebulon B. Vance broach surrender terms to Sherman. On April 12 Johnston went to Greensborough to meet with fugitive Confederate Pres. Jefferson Davis, whom he persuaded to authorize a peace initiative. Sherman was immediately receptive to peace negotiations, and on the 17th, under a flag of truce near Durham Station, met General Johnston for the first time "although we had been interchanging shots constantly since May, 1863."
        The 2-day conference at the James Bennett home produced peace terms acceptable to both generals. But since these intruded on matters of civil policy (for example, recognition of the existing Southern state governments), officials in Washington quickly rejected the agreement and criticized Sherman's imprudence.
        Disappointed, the Federal leader informed Johnston that unless more widely acceptable terms were reached, a 4-day armistice would end on the 26th. That day, however, the war-weary commanders met again at the Bennett home and thrashed out an agreement confined to military matters. At once Gen-in-Chief Ulysses S. Grant wired his approval, and May 3 Johnston's once-proud army laid down its arms, closing hostilities east of the Mississippi River.

Lt. Gen. Richard Taylor

        May 4, 1865. At the wars end Confederate Lt. Gen. Richard Taylor, son of former U.S. president Zachary Taylor, held command of the administrative entity called the Department of Alabama, Mississippi, and East Louisiana, with some 12,000 troops.
        By the end of Apr. 1865 Mobile, Ala., had fallen and news had reached Taylor of the meetings between Gen. Joseph E. Johnston and Maj. Gen. William T. Sherman. Taylor agreed to meet Maj. Gen. E.R.S. Canby for a conference a few miles north of Mobile. On 30 Apr. the 2 officers established a truce, terminable after 48 hours notice by either party, then partook of a "bountiful luncheon ... with joyous poppings of champagne corks ... the first agreeable explosive sounds," Taylor wrote, "I had heard for years." A band played "Hail Columbia" and a few bars of "Dixie."
        The party separated: Canby went to Mobile and Taylor to his headquarters at Meridian, Miss. 2 days later Taylor received news of Johnston's surrender, of Pres. Jefferson Davis's capture, and of Canby's insistence that the truce terminate. Taylor elected to surrender, which he did 4 May 1865 at Citronelle, Ala., some 40 miles north of Mobile. "At the time, no doubts as to the propriety of my course entered my mind," Taylor later asserted, "but such have since crept in." He grew to regret not having tried a last-ditch guerrilla struggle.
        Under the terms, officers retained their sidearms, mounted men their horses. All property and equipment was to be turned over to the Federals, but receipts were issued. The men were paroled. Taylor retained control of the railways and river steamers to transport the troops as near as possible to their homes. He stayed with several staff officers at Meridian until the last man was gone, then went to Mobile, joining Canby, who took Taylor by boat to the latters home in New Orleans.

Lt. Gen. E. Kirby Smith

        May 26, 1865.  From 1862 until the wars end Confederate Lt. Gen.. E. Kirby Smith commanded the Trans-Mississippi Department. By early May 1865 no regular Confederate forces remained east of the Mississippi River. Smith received official proposals that the surrender of his department be negotiated.
        The Federals intimated that terms could be loose, but Smiths demands were unrealistic. Smith then began planning to Continue the fight. Lt. Gen. U. S. Grant took preliminary steps to prepare a force to invade West Texas should that prove necessary. It did not.
        The wars last land fight occurred May 12--13 May at Palmito Ranch, where 350 Confederates under Col. John S. "Rest in Peace" Ford scored a victory over 800 overconfident Federals under Col. Theodore H. Barrett. But afterward the Confederates learned that Richmond had fallen and Gen. Robert E. Lee had surrendered more than a month earlier. The news devastated their morale, and they abandoned their lines.
        A similar decay in morale occurred all over the department. On May 18 Smith left by stagecoach for Houston with plans to rally the remnants of the departments troops. While he traveled, the last of the departments army dissolved. On 26 May, at New Orleans, Lt. Gen. Simon B. Buckner, acting in Smiths name, surrendered the department. Smith reached Houston May 27 and learned that he had no troops.
        Not all of the Trans-Mississippi Confederates went home. Some 2,000 fled into Mexico; most of them went alone or in squad-sized groups, but one body numbered 300. With them, mounted on a mule, wearing a calico shirt and silk kerchief, sporting a revolver strapped to his hip and a shotgun on his saddle, was Smith.

Brig. Gen. Stand Watie

June 23, 1865.  When the leaders of the Confederate Indians learned that the government in Richmond had fallen and the Eastern armies had been surrendered, they, too, began making their plans to seek peace with the Federal government. The chiefs convened the Grand Council June 15 and passed resolutions calling for Indian commanders to lay down their arms and for emissaries to approach Federal authorities for peace terms.
        The largest force in Indian Territory was commanded by Confederate Brig. Gen. Stand Watie, who was also a chief of the Cherokee Nation. Dedicated to the Confederate cause and unwilling to admit defeat, he kept his troops in the field for nearly a month after Lt. Gen. E. Kirby Smith surrendered the Trans-Mississippi May 26. Finally accepting the futility of continued resistance, on June 23 Watie rode into Doaksville near Fort Towson in Indian Territory and surrendered his battalion of Creek, Seminole, Cherokee, and Osage Indians to Lt. Col. Asa C. Matthews, appointed a few weeks earlier to negotiate a peace with the Indians. Watie was the last Confederate general officer to surrender his command.
Source:  "Historical Times Encyclopedia of the Civil War" edited by Patricia L. Faust

 This Page last updated 02/10/02

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