The American Civil War was one of the largest in world history. The number of American lives lost in this war had never been heard of, nor has it been. The fighting that took place tore our nation apart and we still feel the effects 135 years later. This war is so widely written about, that it is nearly impossible to write about everything that happened. That is why I will be writing about the closing days of the Civil War. This is an interesting time, because it is all winding down and you see exactly how it ends. The end of the American Civil War was probably one of the most interesting times.
The final year in the war started towards the middle of 1864. On March 9, 1864 Abraham Lincoln promoted Ulysses S. Grant to lieutenant general. This left him in charge of the entire Northern army. This is a key point, because Grant was a good general and was able to do a lot with all the men he possessed. This was one of the major transitions into the end. After he was appointed there was a brief period of time where not much happened. On May 5, 1864, the intense fighting started right back up at the Battle of the Wilderness. Although this battle only lasted until May 6 it was meaningful. It started the fighting again and showed that the two sides had not yet given in. The battle was continuing steadily for the next month and a half. Three battles occurred in this time frame. A very important event occurred on November 8, 1864. Abraham Lincoln was reelected to the presidency. This was very important because he was so influential as a president it scared the South. He possessed great leadership qualities and was determined to handle the situation. The end of the war was a little over a year away, but you could almost sense how it was getting ready to end.
The first major event of 1865 was definitely on February 6, 1865, when Robert E. Lee was appointed general in chief of the South. It was important because it could help or hurt the South depending on how things went. The next major event transpired on April 2, 1865. General Grant returned back to his troops who were in the process of harassing Petersburg and Richmond. These battles had been going on for months. On March 24, 1865, Grant drew up a new plan for a movement against the Confederates right below Petersburg. It would be the first large scale operation to take place that year and would begin five days later. Two days after Grant made preparations to move again, Lee had already assessed the situation and informed President Davis that Richmond and Petersburg were doomed. Lee’s only chance would be to move his troops out of Richmond and down a southwestern path toward a meeting with fellow General Johnston’s forces. Lee chose a small town to the west named Amelia Court House as a meeting point. His escape was narrow, the soldiers could see Richmond burn as they made their way across the James River and to the West. Grant had finally broke through and Richmond and Petersburg were finished on the second day of April. Most of that information was found in the World Book Encyclopedia, but put into my own words. (I said that just to be safe.) This was it, the end of the war had more or less come. After all that time of fighting this was the deciding battle of the outcome of the American Civil War. On April 9,1865 Robert E. Lee surrendered to Ulysses S. Grant at the Appomattox Courthouse, Virginia. It is said to be one of the most dramatic scenes in United States History. The two generals agreed on specific terms to end the war and the South graciously accepted them. They accepted them so quickly, because they did not want to stir up anymore trouble. It seemed as if the war was over and the nation was going to be able to start rebuilding itself, but that was definitely not the case. On April 14, 1865, Abraham Lincoln was assassinated by John Wilkes Booth at Ford’s Theater in Washington, D.C. This could not have come at a more disastrous; fragile time in our country. We were beginning to heal the effects of the war and then this happened. The Northerners were absolutely outraged. They wanted to go fight and get revenge for what the South did in the war. It was a bad time for this to happen and it almost started the war again. Lincoln’s philosophy on healing the wounds from the war was, malice toward none…charity for all. Feelings of the assassination were widespread, but it was kept under control and nothing occurred. On April 26, 1865 Confederate President Davis tried to run from Durham, NC. General Richard Taylor surrendered the Confederate forces in Mississippi and Alabama on May 14. May 26, is when General Edmund Kirby Smith surrendered the last Confederate army still on the field. From April 12, 161 to May 26, 1865, our nation was divided. It all ended after countless suffering and both sides were relieved to see it go.
The American Civil War played such a major role in our country’s history that it is not possible to put it out of your mind. So many things took place that it is extremely hard to include it all in one report. I believe that the Civil War should have never taken place. We should have been able to settle our problems peacefully. Surprisingly, we do that a little better now then back then. It may be for a different reason but it is true. The end of the war was extremely important, because we needed a boost of morale and we got it. We started to win key battles and that’s how the entire war shifted. This war nearly broke our country apart, although we may not realize it, this still has effects in today’s society. I am glad that things turned out the way they did, because who knows what terrible things could have happened if the South had risen to the occasion.
The American Civil War Homepage http://funnelweb.utcc.utk.edu/~hoemann/cwarhp.html Website Accessed 5/18
Civil War http://www.civil-war.net/ Website Accessed 5/10/00
Civil War http://www.cwc.lsu.edu/cwc/civlink.htm Accessed 5/10/00
Craven, Avery Reconstruction: The Ending of the Civil War Holt, Rineheart and Winston, Inc. 1969
Corrick, James A. Battles of the Civil War: The Battle of Gettysburg Lucent Books 1996
PBS Lincoln: The Pivotal Years Video Public Broadcasting Station 1992
World Book Encyclopedia Civil War World Book Incorporated; 1999