When did the Civil War really end? Most sources and historians claim that the Civil War ended when Robert E. Lee, Confederate General of the Army of Northern Virginia, surrendered to Union General Ulysses S. Grant at the Appomattox Court House on April 9, 1865.
Was this really the end of the Civil War?
Consider the statement made by Mary Curtis Lee, wife of Robert E. Lee who stated that her husband, ‘General Lee is not the Confederacy.’
Union Secretary of War, Edwin Stanton also wanted to know exactly what the surrender of Lee meant and asked Grant to clarify if it included the Confederate Army of Northern Virginia that were still fighting in Loudon County, Virginia. Grant replied:
“The surrender was only of the men left with the pursued army at the time of surrender. All prisoners captured in battle previous to the surrender stand same as other prisoners of war, and those who had escaped and were detached at the time are not included. I think, however, there will be no difficulty now in bringing in on the terms voluntarily given to General Lee all the fragments of the Army of Northern Virginia, and it may be the army under Johnston also. I wish Hancock would try it with Mosby.”
In fact, there were still several Confederate armies that were still at war and fighting Union forces. Confederate General Joseph E. Johnston commanded the second largest army of the South and was still waging war in North Carolina after Lee’s surrender. Other Confederate forces still fighting included Lieutenant General Richard Taylor’s forces in Alabama, Louisiana and Mississippi; Brigadier General Stand Watie’s forces composed on Indians in the Far West; Lieutenant General Nathan Bedford Forrest’s forces in Tennessee, Alabama and Mississippi; and Lieutenant General Edmund Kirby Smith’s forces that were fighting on the western side of the Mississippi River.
On April 18, 1865, Confederate General Joseph E. Johnston surrendered to Union General Willian T. Sherman in North Carolina.
On May 8, 1865, Confederate Lieutenant General Richard Taylor surrendered to Union Major General Edward Canby at Citronelle, Alabama.
On May 9, 1865, Confederate Lieutenant General Nathan Bedford Forrest, having learned of Lee’s surrender a month earlier, surrendered to Union forces in Gainesville, Alabama. This was the last Confederate General east of the Mississippi to surrender.
On May 26, 1865, Confederate Lieutenant General Simon B. Buckner, who served under Lieutenant General Edmund Kirby Smith with the Trans-Mississippi Department, surrendered a large portion of the Department.
On this day, June 2, 1865, Confederate Lieutenant General Edmund Kirby Smith surrendered the rest of the Trans-Mississippi Department in Houston, Texas. A number of historians consider Smith’s surrender as the real end of the American Civil War.
But was it the end?
On June 23, 1865, Confederate Brigadier General Stand Watie surrendered his battalion to Union Lieutenant Colonel Asa, C Matthews at Doaksville, Oklahoma. Watie was the only American Indian to obtain the rank of general in the Confederate army. His battalion was made up of Cherokee, Creek, Osage and Seminole Indians. Watie was the last Confederate General to surrender his troops to the Union.
So when was the end of the American Civil War?
Was it when Lee surrendered to Grant at the Appomattox Court House on April 9, 1865?
Was it when Forrest, the last Confederate general east of the Mississippi River surrendered on May 9, 1865?
Was it when Smith surrendered the last major army west of the Mississippi River on this day, June 2, 1865?
Or did the Civil War truly end with American Indian Confederate Brigadier General Stand Watie surrendered his battalion of Indians at Doaksville on June 23, 1865?
You be the judge!
Sources for the above includes: American Civil War Ends; General Kirby Smith Surrenders the Trans-Mississippi Forces; The End of the American Civil War; Ending the Bloodshed: The Last Surrenders of the Civil War; E. Kirby Smith; General Kirby Smith Surrenders in the US Civil War; The U.S. Civil War 1861-1865; Surrender at Appomattox, 1865; American Civil War: Lieutenant General Richard Taylor; Stand Watie – Brigadier General of the Civil War.