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Tag: appomattox

Ending the Bloodshed: The Last Surrenders of the Civil War

Spring 2015 Prologue coverThis post was originally published as an article by Trevor Plante in the Spring 2015 issue of Prologue magazine. Trevor K. Plante is chief of the Reference Services Branch at the National Archives in Washington, D.C. He is a supervisory archivist who specializes in 19th- and early 20th-century military records and is an active lecturer and a frequent contributor to Prologue.


To many Americans the word Appomattox is synonymous with the end of the Civil War.

The war, however, did not officially conclude at that tiny village west of Petersburg, Virginia. But what happened there in early April 150 years ago certainly marked the beginning of the end for the Confederacy.

After the fall of Richmond, the Confederate capital, on April 2, 1865, officials in the Confederate government, including President Jefferson Davis, fled. The dominoes began to fall. The surrender at Appomattox took place a week later on April 9.

While it was the most significant surrender to take place during the Civil War, Gen. Robert E. Lee, the Confederacy’s most respected commander, surrendered only his Army of Northern Virginia to Union Gen. Ulysses S. Grant.

Several other Confederate forces—some large units, some small—had yet to surrender before President Andrew Johnson could declare that the Civil War was officially over.

The Grant-Lee agreement served not only as a signal that the South had lost the … [ Read all ]

The peculiar story of Wilmer McLean

At left, Wilmer McLean's house where the Civil War began. At right, Wilmer McLean's house where the Civil War ended (111-B-4756, and 111-B-6333)

At left, Wilmer McLean's house where the Civil War 'began.' At right, Wilmer McLean's house where the Civil War ended. (111-B-4756 and 111-B-6333)

Today Part Two of “Discovering the Civil War” opens at the National Archives in Washington, DC. The exhibit is divided into a few sections, the last of which is entitled “Endings and Beginnings,” a reference to the end of the Civil War and the start of Reconstruction. As to the beginning and the end of the Civil War itself, there is only one man who book-ended it so literally. His name was Wilmer McLean.

On July 18, 1861, Confederate General Beauregard had sat down for supper in the home of a Manassas local when a cannonball pierced through the house and landed in the kitchen fireplace. It was something of a surprise, but not so overwhelming as to ruin Beauregard’s sense of humor “A comical effect of this artillery fight was the destruction of the dinner of myself and staff by a Federal shell that fell into the fire-place of my headquarters at the McLean House,” he wrote in his diary. Perhaps the shell would have been more of a shock had it not been just one of many volleys in the first major campaign of the Civil War: the Battle of Bull Run.

The house belonged to a man named … [ Read all ]