Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Civil War @150: April 1865

It's been too long since I've posted, but it's been a crazy few months at the Tremel house. What I wanted to do is run down some major anniversaries for April. This month, we commemorate the 150th anniversary of the end of the American Civil War. So here are a few (somewhat centered on the Eastern Theater, so apologies for the fans of what was going on in North Carolina).

April 1 The battle of Five Forks: A Union victory by General Philip Sheridan over Confederate General George E. Pickett, the engagement opened the door for a major assault on Lee's lines at Petersburg.

April 2 Siege of Petersburg ends: General Ulysses S. Grant began the siege of Petersburg, Virginia in June 1864. The town was the last major railroad junction south of Richmond and Robert E. Lee held on tenaciously for nine months. Finally, his lines broke, forcing Lee to retreat to the west.

April 3 Union Troops occupy the Confederate capital of Richmond

April 4 President Abraham Lincoln visits Richmond.

April 9 General Robert E. Lee Surrenders at Appomattox Court House: After a series of engagements over several days, General Grant suggests that he and Lee meet to discuss terms. At first, Lee resists, but finally sees the inevitable: his starving, shrinking army cannot withstand the Union onslaught. He surrendered his army to General Grant at Appomattox Court House. They met in the parlor of William McLean. Ironically, McLean lived in Manassas originally and left after the first engagement of the war to a quieter area, where he hoped to escape the conflict.

April 12 Lee's Army formally surrenders: This poignant event is less remembered than what happened on April 9, but on this day, Lee's men stacked arms and Confederate colors. Supervising was Brevet Major General Joshua L. Chamberlain. Chamberlain ordered a salute to the Confederates; Confederate Lieutenant General John B. Gordon ordered his men to return the salute.

April 14 The President is shot: At 10:15, in the president's box at Ford's Theater, John Wilkes Booth shot Abraham Lincoln.

April 15 President Lincoln dies: Abraham Lincoln died at 7:22 in the morning. Secretary of War Edwin Stanton said, "Now he belongs to the ages."

April 17 Peace terms in North Carolina: Generals William T. Sherman and Joseph E. Johnston, after a series of engagements near Durham, North Carolina, discussed peace and reached an agreement on April 18. It was a far-reaching peace, ending the war politically as well as militarily. The presence of Confederate Secretary of War John C. Breckinridge led to this. There was tremendous outcry that Sherman stepped well beyond his powers as an army commander; Congress rejected the terms and Johnston was left with a choice: either accept terms like the ones Grant gave to Lee or keep fighting.

April 26 John Wilkes Booth killed: After a manhunt of nearly two weeks, soldiers shot and killed John Wilkes Booth. On the very same day, Confederate General Johnston surrendered formally to General Sherman at Durham Station, North Carolina. This was the last major Confederate force to capitulate.

Looking for something to read and learn more about this pivotal month in American history? I highly recommend Jay Winik's April 1865. The History Channel also ran an excellent piece based on this book. I'm re-reading it. I'm also going to finally tackle James Swanson's book Manhunt, about the search for John Wilkes Booth. I've had it on my shelf for ages and I'm long overdue to check it out.

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