The End of the Civil War: The History of the Battles and Events that Destroyed the Confederacy and Finished the War Between the States

Written by Charles River Editors
Category: · History

*Includes pictures
*Analyzes the major campaigns of the last year of the war, from the Franklin-Nashville Campaign to the Appomattox Campaign
*Covers events like the Lincoln assassination, Jefferson Davis’ attempt to keep the war going while fleeing south, and the trials of Southerners and the Lincoln conspirators
*Includes online resources and a bibliography for further reading
*Includes a table of contents

Americans have long been fascinated by the Civil War, marveling at the size of the battles, the leadership of the generals, and the courage of the soldiers. Since the war’s start over 150 years ago, the battles have been subjected to endless debate among historians and the generals themselves. The Civil War was the deadliest conflict in American history, and had the two sides realized it would take 4 years and inflict over a million casualties, it might not have been fought. Since it did, however, historians and history buffs alike have been studying and analyzing the biggest battles ever since.

By the close of 1864, Abraham Lincoln had been reelected, the Union army had taken Nashville from General Hood, and Sherman had concluded his total war, “slash-and-burn” march of destruction to Savannah, Georgia, offering it as a Christmas present to Lincoln. Nevertheless, with everything seemingly falling to pieces, the South still held out hope of some sort of miracle, and Davis even attempted to send a peace delegation to meet with Lincoln in the early months of 1865. On January 28, 1865 as Union General Ulysses S. Grant was continuing to lay siege to Lee’s army at Petersburg, Virginia, Davis sent three commissioners headed by Vice-President Stephens to initiate informal peace talks with Lincoln. By February 3, however, the talks, known as the Hampton Roads Conference, came to a stalemate as Lincoln would accept nothing less than total union, while Davis would only accept Southern independence.

To most observers, the South was clearly reaching its end, but Davis had no intention of quitting the war. Even while he was fleeing, he attempted to order Confederate generals in the field to keep fighting. On April 9, 1865, Lee formally surrendered his weary army to Grant at Appomattox. Appomattox is frequently cited as the end of the Civil War, but there still remained several Confederate armies across the country, mostly under the command of General Joseph E. Johnston, the same commander who arrived with reinforcements by rail during the First Battle of Bull Run and gave the South hope with victory in the first major battle.

Of course, just as the war was nearing its end, its most shocking event took place. Until April 14, 1865, John Wilkes Booth was one of the most famous actors of his time, and President Abraham Lincoln had even watched him perform. But his most significant performance at a theater did not take place on the stage. That night, Booth became one of history’s most infamous assassins when he assassinated President Lincoln at Ford’s Theatre in Washington, D.C.

All the while, the war technically continued. On April 26, 1865, Johnston defied Davis’s orders and surrendered all of his forces to General Sherman. Over the next month, the remaining Confederate forces would surrender or quit. The last skirmish between the two sides took place May 12-13, ending ironically with a Confederate victory at the Battle of Palmito Ranch in Texas.

As fate would have it, the last fighting of the Civil War took place two days after Davis had been captured in Georgia, and his capture remained controversial for several decades.On December 25, 1868, treason charges were officially dropped against him, much to Davis’ chagrin. Davis actually relished the possibility of challenging the charges in court and was dismayed that he wasn’t given a soapbox to make his arguments.

This book chronicles the climactic events that finally brought America’s deadliest war to a close.

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