• Exploring American History

A divided nation begins the journey to reunification

On April 9, 1865, the final events of the Civil War began at the home of Wilmer and Virginia McLean in Appomattox, Virginia.

At approximately 1:00 p.m., General Robert E. Lee, commanding general of the Confederate (Southern) Army, arrived. General Ulysses S. Grant, leader of the Union (Northern) Army, arrived approximately 30 minutes later. Known to many as ‘Unconditional Surrender Grant’, for this event, the general tempered his behavior. The level of respect he bestowed upon General Lee allowed the Southern gentleman and his troops to return home with dignity.

The second surrender was the largest of the Civil War. It took place between Gen. Joseph E. Johnston and Gen. William T. Sherman, involving approximately 90,000 troops. Johnston’s Army of Tennessee was the second-largest Confederate army after Lee’s; however, Johnston’s surrender also involved troops from the Carolinas, Georgia and Florida. On April 26, Sherman and Johnston signed a surrender agreement whose text was along the same lines as the accord between Grant and Lee’s at Appomattox.

Third in line took place soon after news of Johnston’s surrender reached Alabama. Lt. Gen. Richard Taylor, son of President Zachary Taylor, commanded approximately 10,000 Confederate men. On May 4th, General Taylor concluded a similar peace agreement and surrendered his army toMajor General Edward Canby.

The fourth and final surrender occurred on May 9, 1865. Lt. General Nathan Bedford Forrest surrendered his cavalry troops at Gainesville, Alabama. Prior to doing so, he told his men: “That we are beaten is a self-evident fact, and any further resistance on our part would justly be regarded as the very height of folly and rashness.

After 630,000 deaths, one million-plus casualties and immense property damage throughout the South, the final chapter of the Civil War was added to the history books.

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