Monday, June 25, 2012

Last Confederate Army Surrenders, and It Wasn't Lee's Army

Oops, I am tardy; June 23rd was the 147th anniversary of the surrender of the last Confederate force. Here is a quick review of the surrender dates of Confederate armies:
April 9, 1865: surrender of the Army of Northern Virginia by General Robert E. Lee
April 26, 1865: surrender of forces commanded by Joseph E. Johnston
May 4, 1865: surrender of Departments of Alabama, Mississippi, and east Louisiana by Lt. General Richard Taylor
May 26, 1865: surrender of the Trans-Mississippi Department by Lt. Gen. E. Kirby Smith
June 23, 1865: surrender of Indian tribes by Brigadier General Stand Watie near Fort Towson, Indian Territory. The Historical Marker Database includes photographs of the marker near the site of Watie’s surrender, and the News in website has a transcription of an 1865 newspaper article about the surrender proceedings.
One of my pet peeves is the implication (often made by the national media) that the war ended with the surrender of Lee’s army. This is an Eastern-centric view of the war implying that Lee’s army embodied everything of importance. The surrender of Lee’s army started the process of surrenders by other Confederate armies, but the surrender of the Army of Northern Virginia did not necessarily mean that the war’s end would be a quick or an inevitable process.
Well, I feel better now that I’ve vented about this…


  1. Reading the (increasingly scant) newspapers of Spring 1865 is highly illuminating. Not everybody believed Lee had surrendered; not everybody believed it meant the war was over; desertions among the men increased while officers discussed alliances with the French in Mexico, or making a glorious stand in Texas - after all, hadn't the Texas revolution succeeded after the apparent definitive defeat of the Alamo and the Runaway Scrape? Troops were rounding up new conscripts, who sued them in court to demonstrate that they were exempted, right up to the time the courts stopped functioning because nobody had anything but paper with which to pay court fees, and paper was trading $400 to $1. One rumor had the British finally allying with the South and invading through Canada. At the negotiations after the Battle of Palmito Ranch in May (which the Confederates, as you know, won), Rip Ford took under serious consideration the proposition, made by Gen. Lew Wallace, that Texas make a separate peace and join forces with the Union Army and the Juaristas to boot Maximilian out of Mexico.

    The Civil War in the east is comparatively dull, if you ask me!

  2. The Eastern Theater was the part of the war that first interested me, but as I've gotten older, I've drifted westward so to speak. Those actions in the East were downright stuffy and stodgy compared to "our" war in the trans-Mississippi. Glad that you agree!