xxxxxAs we have seen, for much of 1864 the Confederates were on the defensive. General Grant’s “Overland Campaign” pinned down the Southerners in Virginia, whilst in the West, Tennessee was captured and General Sherman, after taking Atlanta in the September, was able to march through Georgia and occupy Savannah by the end of the year. 1865 saw the fall of Petersburg and Richmond and the advance of Sherman through South and North Carolina. By April 1865 General Lee was forced to surrender to Grant at the small village of Appomattox Court House. Throughout the conflict the Confederates had fought well, and had gained the advantage in the opening campaigns in the East. By late 1863, however, the decided advantages held by the North in manpower, transport, and the production of munitions began to tell. The Southern states, predominantly agricultural, depended on the import of war material through ports which were often blockaded by Union ships. Furthermore, the failure of the South to gain support from Europe, notably Britain and France, and the increase in Union manpower which followed the Proclamation of Emancipation in January 1863 - estimated at close on 200,000 - put the writing on the wall. In April 1865 the Confederates succumbed to the total war policy being waged by Grant and his commanders, a strategy which was designed to cause maximum casualties and the destruction of the railroads and farmlands upon which the Southern forces depended.




Surrender: detail, by the French portrait painter Louis Guilaume (1816-1892). Davis: detail, by the German painter Christian F. Schwerdt (born 1836), c1875 – Chicago History Museum, USA. Cold Harbor: date and artist unknown, contained in Harper’s Encyclopedia of United States History, Vol.2, 1912, - private collection (Roy Winkelman), Florida Center for Instructional Technology, College of Education, University of South Florida, USA. Use of Balloons: date and artist unknown – Prints and Photographs Division, Library of Congress, Washington. Map (Southern States): licensed under Creative Commons. Author: Jengod – en, Cartoon: date and artist unknown. Ku-Klux- Klan: date and artist unknown.

xxxxxAs we have seen, the Union’s crushing victory at Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, in July 1863, together with its triumph at Vicksburg, Mississippi, one day later, proved something of a watershed in the conduct of the civil war. The first repulsed Lee’s invasion of the North, and the second split the Confederacy in two and gave the Unionists control of the Mississippi River. There were to be a large number of well-fought battles over the next twenty months, many in which the Confederates gained the upper hand, but by the closing months of 1863 the superiority of the Union in manpower, munitions and transport was beginning to tell. In 1864 the conflict in the east was mainly confined to a series of bloody battles in the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia, whilst in the west, Tennessee was captured, and General Sherman, having taken Atlanta in the September, was able to march virtually unopposed through Georgia and reach the sea by the end of the year.

xxxxxIn the New Year Sherman turned north and advanced through South and North Carolina. With the capture of Wilmington in North Carolina in January 1865 - the last remaining Confederate port - and the fall of Petersburg (under siege for nine months), the South’s fate was sealed. Richmondxwas entered on the 3rd April and General Robert E. Lee, almost completely surrounded, had no alternative but to surrender. Six days later he met General Ulysses Grant at the McLean House in the small village of Appomattox Court House, Virginia, and put his signature to the capitulation. By the end of May all the major Confederate forces had laid down their arms. The civil war was over.

xxxxxIncidentally, as a sign of respect towards his enemy, and a gesture towards reconciliation, Grant allowed Confederate officers to keep their side arms along with their private horses and personal baggage. Thus Lee was not required to offer up his personal sabre as a sign of surrender, and he retained his famous horse Traveller. ……

xxxxx…… The McLean House where the surrender was signed was re-constructed in 1948 and is now a museum in the Appomattox Court House National Historical Park, situated about three miles from the modern town of Appomattox. ……

xxxxx……  Jefferson Davis  the first and only President of the Confederate States of America, was captured in May 1865 and imprisoned until 1867 on a charge of treason. In 1868, however, the Federal government dropped the case against him. He made a number of visits to Europe, served for some years as president of a Memphis insurance firm, and during his retirement wrote The Rise and Fall of Confederate Government, published in 1881. ……

xxxxx……  InxthexCivil War the term Yank (or Yankee) was used by Southerners as a term of contempt for Union soldiers or Northerners in general. The name previously referred to natives of New England (probably from the Dutch word Janke, a diminutive of Jan) and became a popular term in the American War of Independence - mainly due to the marching song Yankee Doodle. In the First World War the term was applied to all American soldiers, influenced to a large extent by the marching song Over There of 1917 - - and this continued to be the case throughout the Second World War. ……


xxxxx……   Andxworthy of mention is Harriet Tubman (c1820-1913), a runaway slave who escaped to the North in 1849, but returned many times to help scores of slaves reach freedom via the route known as the “Underground Railway”, a chain of safe houses. During the Civil War she worked as a spy for the North and was instrumental in the freeing of some 300 slaves. ……

xxxxx……  Duringxthe war a number of warships employed by the Confederate States as commerce raiders - notably the steamship Alabama - were built in Britain and allowed to take part in the conflict. With the cessation of hostilities, the United States government claimed compensation from the British government for the damage caused by these ships to their own shipping and property, arguing that Britain had violated its neutrality. An international tribunal met in Geneva in 1871 to arbitrate on these “Alabama Claims” and in the following year decided that Britain should pay the American government $15.5 million for the collateral damage caused. To keep on good terms with the United States, Britain agreed to the settlement.

xxxxxThe major reasons for the success of the Union are not difficult to determine. The Confederate armies acquitted themselves well for much of the war, and were especially successful in the opening campaigns in the East, but from the beginning of the conflict the Unionists had a number of decided advantages, and these weighed heavily in their favour as the war dragged on and became wider in scope and more costly in manpower and munitions. Its numerical strength was about four times greater than that of the South and this was a major factor in a war which developed into one of attrition. Inxthexlast year especially, Lee’s army was being constantly thinned by desertion as well as by the losses inflicted by General Ulysses Grant in his Virginian “Overland Campaign” - during which battles like those fought at Wilderness, Spotsylvania and Cold Harbor (illustrated) were aimed at whittling down Confederate manpower. He and his commanders - particularly General Sherman - conducted a total war policy which targeted the Confederates’ economic base - their railroads and farmland - as well as their fighting forces. And in this respect, the North had an industrial capacity, whereas the agricultural South had to depend almost entirely upon the import of war equipment - an unreliable means of supply given the Union’s superiority at sea and its ability to blockade Confederate ports.


xxxxxFurthermore, Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation of September 1862, enacted in January 1863, virtually put an end to the Confederacy’s chances of receiving aid from Britain or France, despite their dependence on the import of raw cotton. This was a source of assistance which might well have swung the balance in favour of the South’s bid for independence. In addition, the proclamation enabled close on 200,000 free blacks and escaped slaves to swell the ranks of the Union army in the closing years of the war.

xxxxxThe American Civil War demonstrated a number of technological advances on the battlefield. The use of observation balloons, for example, employed by the French as early as the Battle of Fleurus in 1794, was further developed. Tethered to the ground or free flying, balloons were used for reconnaissance purposes and, on occasions, to direct artillery fire onto enemy positions (illustrated). The Union army had its own balloon corps and this provided useful information to ground forces, particularly at the Battle of Fair Oaks in 1862 and during the build-up to the Battle of Gettysburg the following year. On the battlefield itself the increasing volume and intensity of artillery fire, together with the continuous, rapid fire of the Gatling machine gun - though limited in use during this conflict - gave a frightful glimpse of the carnage to come in the First World War (1914-1919). Even at this early stage both armies were forced to adopt trench warfare at the siege of Petersburg. At sea, as we have seen, the battle of the ironclads, Monitor and Merrimack, in March 1862, marked the beginning of the end for wooden warships, and the opening of a new era in naval warfare.


The Reconstruction

xxxxxAfter the end of the Civil War in 1865 the Reconstruction of the Union proved a long and difficult task. Whilst the North emerged almost intact, much of the South had been laid to waste and its economy, based on slavery, had been virtually ruined. Both Lincoln and, after his assassination, Andrew Jackson, were anxious to provide generous terms in order to heal the nation’s wounds, but in 1866 the radicals gained control of Congress and imposed a military occupation of the South. By 1870 all the Southern states had gained readmission to the Union, but the last Federal troops did not leave until 1877. This military occupation added to the South’s humiliation, and only served to increase the hatred and bitterness which had been engendered on both sides during a long and bloody conflict. And whilst the Civil War gave freedom to some 4 million black people, this had little real effect in many parts of the Deep South. With the end of Reconstruction in 1877 ultra-conservative parties were soon in power, and the vast majority of the former slaves were denied their basic rights, segregated, and cowed into submission by violent racist organisations like the Ku Klux Klan. A hundred years were to pass before such injustice was fully put to rights.

xxxxxAfter such a long and bloody war, the Reconstruction of the Union was only achieved after decades of political and social rancour. At the personal level, the hatred and bitterness it engendered remained causes of division well into the 20th century, and some of the scars have yet to heal. Such is hardly surprising. The conflict had cost close on a million casualties, including 620,000 dead, and whilst the North emerged with its industrial power intact, much of the South had been laid to waste and its economy, based on slavery, had been virtually ruined. Farmsteads and barns had been burned down, railroads torn up, and bridges destroyed, and many cities, such as Richmond, Atlanta and Vicksburg, had been badly damaged. The Union victory reunited the country politically, but economically and socially the United States remained a divided nation for many years to come.

xxxxxLincoln’s Proclamation of Amnesty and Reconstruction was issued in December 1863. In keeping with his desire “to bind up the nation’s wounds”, it was a lenient settlement aimed at bringing the break-away states back into the Union as quickly as possible. Southerners who swore their allegiance to the Constitution and accepted the proclamations regarding slavery would be granted amnesty. Furthermore, once ten percent of a state’s population had accepted these provisions, that state could draw up its own constitution and send delegates to Congress.  

xxxxxWith Lincoln’s assassination just a few days after the end of the war, the question as to whether he could have persuaded the radicals in Congress to accept this Proclamation has to remain unanswered, though it would seem most unlikely. His successor, Andrew Jackson, did continue his policy of reconciliation. In May 1865 he issued a formal pardon in respect of all Southern states, and he saw through the 13th Amendment to the Constitution, forbidding slavery throughout the United States. However, the radicals triumphed in the elections of 1866, and this resulted in a military occupation of all Southern states except Tennessee. By 1870 all these states had been readmitted to the Union following their acceptance of universal male suffrage and the 14th Amendment (providing all persons equal protection under the law), but the last Federal troops remained in the South until 1877. Needless to say, this military occupation (close to martial law at times) was offensive and humiliating to the Southerners, and only served to increase the enmity between the former enemies.

xxxxxAs far as the abolition of slavery was concerned, the civil war gave freedom to some four million black people but, in reality, this was only a paper exercise in many areas south of the Mason-Dixon Line. With the end of the Reconstruction in 1877, many Southern states fell quickly into the hands of ultra-conservative parties, and their hard-line policies towards black labour continued. Former slaves were denied their basic rights under the law, segregation was enforced, and violent racist organizations were used to silence any protest. Such injustice gradually diminished in scope over the years, but remained a pressing problem into the second half of the 20th century.

xxxxxIncidentally, during the period of Reconstruction quite a large number of Northerners moved to the South. Many were well-motivated, anxious to assist in the struggle for racial equality, but there was also a substantial number of opportunists - notably lawyers, politicians and businessmen - who, by fair means or foul, saw the chance of making a handsome profit in quick time. These were generally known as “carpetbaggers”, newcomers who had no intention of settling in the South and therefore used an inexpensive carpet bag to carry their few belongings! At the same time Southern whites who joined the Republican party were known as “scalawags” (meaning rascals and originally applied to skinny, worthless cattle). They often worked together with the carpetbaggers to take control of state or local government. ……

xxxxx……  Bothxthe carpetbaggers and the scalawags became targets of the Ku-Klux-Klan, a leading racist organisation formed at the end of the Civil War to resist Reconstruction. This secret society also attacked white Republican leaders but, dedicated as it was to white supremacy, the Klan’s primary aim was to deny political rights to the black population.  Dressed in white hooded robes to conceal their identity and using a burning cross as their symbol, members of the Klan terrorised many parts of the southern states, lynching, raping and torturing freed slaves and their families. The movement had lost some of its momentum by 1869 and was virtually destroyed by vigorous government action following the passing of the Civil Rights Act of 1871, but it continued to operate in small, isolated groups and re-emerged with a wider scope of targets in 1915, based on the city of Atlanta in Georgia. The name of the organisation was derived from the Greek word kyklos (meaning a circle) with Clan added on.