In the Shadow of Appomattox: The Significance of Bennett Place

In the Shadow of Appomattox: The Significance of Bennett Place

Yesterday marked the 150th anniversary of the surrender of Confederate General Joseph Johnston to Union General William Sherman.  While history focuses on Lee’s surrender at Appomattox as the end of the Civil War, Johnston’s surrender at Bennett Place was significantly larger and demonstrates the lack of a definitive end to the war.

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Sesquicentennial Spotlight: After Appomattox

Sesquicentennial Spotlight: After Appomattox

Now that the 150th anniversary of Appomattox has passed, the Civil War sesquicentennial is over, right?  Not quite.

Most Americans consider Appomattox the end of the war; that was certainly what I was taught in school when I was younger.  However, Robert E. Lee’s surrender is only the beginning of the end.  When Lee surrendered the Army of Northern Virginia at Appomattox he surrendered only the men under his command, not the entire military force of the Confederate States of America. 

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“To See What Freedom Meant:” April 9, 1865 (Sesquicentennial Spotlight)

“To See What Freedom Meant:” April 9, 1865 (Sesquicentennial Spotlight)

Much has been made of the surrender at Appomattox Court House, Virginia on April 9, 1865. Historians note that myth surrounds those final bedraggled days of the Army of Northern Virginia, the magnanimity with which Union soldiers welcomed their fellow Americans back into a nation at peace, and the causes won and lost in the subsequent years. Though it took months for the rest of the remaining Confederate forces to surrender their arms, no moment stands more clearly in historical memory as marking the end of the United States’ most costly war than the meeting in which Robert E. Lee surrendered his forces to Ulysses Grant. While myth may obscure some of the more concrete realities of that day – what was with Wilmer McClean anyway? – the peace wrought by those two great generals was nothing short of remarkable both for what it ended and what it began.

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Sesquicentennial Spotlight: Richmond Occupied!

Sesquicentennial Spotlight: Richmond Occupied!

The Union army broke the Confederate lines at Petersburg early on April 2 after the engagement at Five Forks the previous day.  Lee knew the position was lost, and the army’s only hope was to move west to find reinforcements and supplies.  With the Confederate army moving west, Richmond was now exposed to the Union army.  That night the Confederate government and the troops left in the city evacuated in haste, taking the last open rail line to Danville, VA, which would be the last seat of the Confederate government.  Throughout the night into April 3, retreating Confederates set fire to portions of the Confederate capital, hoping to destroy supplies before the Union soldiers could reach them. 

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