Coming out of the winter of 1864-1865, hopes for the Confederacy were dim. In the South, Major General William T. Sherman conducted his march to the sea through Georgia. After capturing Savannah, Georgia, plans for the Carolina Campaign were underway. Major General Sherman formulated a campaign, to which Lieutenant General Ulysses S. Grant agreed, consisting of Sherman moving northward through the Carolinas. Originally, Grant wanted Sherman’s men to board ships and move for Virginia.
By mid January of 1865, Sherman’s army was moving toward South Carolina. This move would try to finish off the Confederate army. General Robert E. Lee knew that since Lieutenant General Jubal Early’s Confederate army in the Shenandoah Valley was defeated, Grant would receive even more troops from Major General Philip Sheridan. The last major battle with Lt. Gen. Early was in March of 1865 at Waynesboro, VA.
In Virginia, around Petersburg, Lt. Gen. Grant’s Union armies were bogged down in trench warfare. The Confederate Army of Northern Virginia under General Robert E. Lee, had their backs against a wall. They had been besieged since June of 1864. Now, several months later, it was only a matter of time before the Confederacy crumbled and fell. Once Sherman was moving from Georgia into South Carolina, the last port that was a lifeline to Lee and the Confederate army was lost. This was the day that Wilmington, North Carolina fell.
General Lee asked Brigadier General Joseph Johnston, who was in retirement, to take command of the Army of Tennessee. Johnston took command in March. He was tasked with the Department of South Carolina, Georgia, and Florida, the Army of the Tennessee, and the Department of North Carolina and Southern Virginia. After several major battles in North Carolina in March, Johnston was forced to move back to Raleigh, North Carolina.
By late March, Lee attempted to break out of Petersburg, but the attack was a major blow to the Confederate army. By April 1, the Battle of Five Forks turned out to be another Confederate disaster, and the following day portions of the Union army broke through the Confederate line. This forced Petersburg and Richmond to fall on April 3. Forced to flee, Lee decided to head west and try to link up with Brig. Gen. Johnston in North Carolina. But instead, this led to several hard battles, and eventually the surrender of Lee’s army at Appomattox Court House, Virginia.
On April 9, after reading and sending several dispatches to Lt. Gen. Grant, General Lee decided to meet with Grant. Lee made this decision after looking at all options, and hearing from several of his top commanders.The Confederate army was almost completely surrounded. After sending a dispatch to Grant, Grant replied to Lee agreeing that the two will meet at a place of Lee’s choosing. After looking over the area, Appomattox Court House was picked. Lee and his staff rode out to meet with Lt. Gen. Grant.
General Lee arrived at the McLean House and waited for Grant. Once Grant arrived and met with Lee, the two talked about their days during the war with Mexico. But eventually, Lee reminded Grant for the reason that the two were there, and that was to talk about the surrender of the Army of Northern Virginia.
The terms were simple:
From U.S. Grant To R.E. Lee
Appomattox Court-House, Virginia April 9, 1865.
General: In accordance with the substance of my letter to you of the 8th instant, I propose to receive the surrender of the army of Northern Virginia on the following terms, to wit: Rolls of all the officers and men to be made in duplicate, one copy to be given to an officer to be designated by me, the other to be retained by such officer or officers as you may designate. The officers to give their individual paroles not to take up arms against the government of the United States until properly exchanged; and each company or regimental commander to sign a like parole for the men of their commands. The arms, artillery, and public property to be parked and stacked, and turned over to the officers appointed by me to receive them. This will not embrace the side-arms of the officers nor their private horses or baggage. This done, each officer and man will be allowed to return to his home, not to be disturbed by United States authority so long as they observe their paroles and the laws in force where they may reside.
U.S. Grant, Lieutenant-General. General R. E. Lee.
After Grant had wrote this, the document was taken from Grant’s table and delivered to Lee’s table where Lee read over the document. Lee the then wrote his response.
From R.E. Lee To U.S. Grant
Head-Quarters, Army of Northern Virginia April 9, 1865.
General: I received your letter of this date containing the terms of the surrender of the army of Northern Virginia, as proposed by you. As they are substantially the same as those expressed in your letter of the 8th instant, they are accepted. I will proceed to designate the proper officers to carry the stipulations into effect.
R. E. Lee, General. Lieutenant-General U.S. Grant.
On April 9, 1865, at 3:00 p.m., Lee surrendered his army accepting the terms. The war for the Army of Northern Virginia was over.
After being reelected for his second term of office, President Abraham Lincoln was grateful to see that General Lee and his Confederate army had surrendered. Peace was being achieved. However, the peace that Lincoln dreamed of, he would never see, as he was assassinated at Ford’s Theater on April 15, 1865.
Two days after Lincoln’s death, at the Bennett house in North Carolina, Confederate Brigadier General Johnston met with Major General Sherman. During the first conversation, Sherman was handed a telegram and after he read it, he gave it to Johnston to read; this was how they both learned of the assassination of President Lincoln.
The next day, Johnston and Sherman again met and terms of surrender were signed, but rejected by the Presidential cabinet. Lieutenant General Grant arrived on April 24, and explained to Sherman that the terms had exceeded those that he had given Lee. On April 26, Sherman and Johnston met again. This time the terms were again discussed and Johnston agreed, surrendering over 89,000 soldiers in North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia and Florida.
Terms of a Military Convention, entered into this 26th day of April, 1865, at Bennitt’s House read: All acts of war on the part of the troops under General Johnston’s command to cease from this date.
All arms and public property to be deposited at Greensboro, and delivered to an ordnance-officer of the United States Army. Rolls of all the officers and men to be made in duplicate; one copy to be given to an officer to be designated by General Sherman. Each officer and man to give individual obligation in writing not to take up arms against the Government of the United States, until properly released from this obligation. The side-arms of officers, and their private horses and baggage, to be retained by them. This being done, all the officers and men will be permitted to return to their homes, not to be disturbed by the United States authorities, so long as they observe their obligation and the laws in force where they may reside.
W. T. Sherman, Major-General
Commanding United States Forces in North Carolina
J. E. Johnston, General
Commanding Confederate States Forces in North Carolina
Approved: U. S. Grant, Lieutenant-General
On May 4, 1865, Confederate Lieutenant General Richard Taylor surrendered 12,000 troops within the Department of Alabama, Mississippi, and East Louisiana to Major General E.R.S. Canby at Citronelle, Alabama. Under the terms, officers retained their sidearms, mounted men their horses. All property was turned over to the Federal army, and the men were paroled. Lieutenant General Taylor retained control of the railways and river steamers to transport the troops as near as possible to their homes.
On May 26, more Confederate soldiers, who were under the command of Lieutenant General E. Kirby Smith, surrendered. The last major surrender of Confederate soldiers came on June 23, 1865, in Indian Territory with Confederate Brigadier General Stand Watie. Now that the Civil War was over, Reconstruction would officially begin.