WASHINGTON, D.C. (WHTM) — On April 9, 1865, Robert E. Lee surrendered the Army of Northern Virginia to Ulysses S. Grant. On April 26, Confederate General Joseph General Joseph E. Johnston surrendered the armies under his command. On May 4, the Confederate departments of Alabama, Mississippi, and East Louisiana surrendered, followed by the Confederate District of the Gulf on May 5. That same day Confederate President Jefferson Davis held one final cabinet meeting, and his government dissolved.

On May 9, former President Andrew Johnson, who ascended to the office following the assassination of Abraham Lincoln on April 14, issued a declaration stating that armed resistance was “virtually at an end.” This proclamation was primarily aimed at nations and ships still harboring “fugitives” (privateers), announcing they would be denied entry to U.S. ports, and fugitives found on such ships would no longer be given immunity for their crimes.

He may have been a bit premature. There were still a lot of Confederates who had not surrendered, and some blood was yet to be spilled. On May 10, Jefferson David was captured, and the Departments of Florida, South Carolina, and South Georgia surrendered. The Northern Sub-District of Arkansas laid down their arms on May 11, and on May 12  Brigadier General William T. Wofford and two to three thousand troops surrendered at Kingston, Georgia.  

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On May 12-13 the Confederates had one final victory, at the Battle of Palmito Ranch in Texas. Union Colonel Theodore H. Barrett, who had little or no real combat experience, ordered an attack on a Confederate position, even though he knew there was an unofficial truce. Fortunately, casualties were few (so far as we can tell from the somewhat sloppy record-keeping) but the Confederates trounced the Union forces.

Not that the battle changed anything, on May 26 the Army of the Trans-Mississippi stacked their arms. The last Confederate General to surrender on June 23 was a Native American-Cherokee Chief and Brigadier General Stand Watie, leader of the Cherokee Mounted Rifles.

Finally, on November 6, 1865, CSS Shenandoah docked in Liverpool, England. The commerce raider spent a good part of June and July sailing along the coast of Alaska (still then a Russian territory) and destroying much of the American whaling fleet. On June 27 they learned of Lee’s surrender from a newspaper on a prize ship. But the newspaper also contained a proclamation from Jefferson Davis that the war would continue, so they kept seizing ships. Then on August 2 they met a British ship, the Barracouta, and learned the war truly was over. Realizing they were now pirates in the eyes of the law-a-hanging offense, the Shenandoah’s captain, James Waddell, put their cannons in storage, nailed shut the gunports, and repainted the ship. They then made a 9,000-mile voyage to England, staying well out of the shipping lanes to avoid being spotted. On reaching Liverpool they surrendered to British authorities, were exonerated in the Admiralty Court, and allowed to go free.

Not until August 20, 1866, would President Johnson finally issue a proclamation stating that the war was officially over.

Wikipedia-conclusion of the Civil War


National Archives

Wikipedia Battle of Palmito Ranch

Sea of Gray: The Around-the-World Odyssey of the Confederate Raider Shenandoah by Tom Chaffin

Gray Raiders of the Sea: How Eight Confederate Warships Destroyed the Union’s High Seas Commerce Paperback by Chester G. Hearn

Center for the Rule of Law.org


AmericanHistory.si.edu-Stand Watie the last surrender

Smithsonian Magazine-Lee’s surrender