When Do Wars Really End?

April 9, 1865: On this day, Lee surrendered to Grant at Appomattox Courthouse, effectively ending the American Civil War.

I say effectively, because this War, like so many others, was not so neatly concluded.

April 14, 1865: President Lincoln was assassinated.

May 9, 1865: Lincoln’s successor, Andrew Johnson, declared the insurrection had ended.

May 10, 1865: Confederate president Jefferson Davis was captured. While being held for two years under harsh conditions, he was indicted for treason, but eventually released. He was never tried, much less convicted, and died of bronchitis and malaria in 1889.

June 6, 1865: Guerrilla leader William Quantrill was killed by Union troops in Spencer County, KY (just miles from my childhood home); this was the last official military engagement east of the Mississippi.

June 23, 1865: The last Confederate General surrendered his forces.

November 6, 1865: The CSS Shenandoah, the last Confederate ship active in the conflict, surrendered to British authorities in Liverpool, England.

August 20, 1866: After finally suppressing resistance in holdout Texas, Johnson issued a proclamation declaring the “insurrection is at an end and peace, order, tranquility, and civil authority now exist” in the United States.

March 31, 1877: Reconstruction ended with the infamous Compromise of 1877, which included final withdrawal of US troops from former Confederate territory and the white South given free rein in their dealings with black citizens. There followed an era of white-supremacy-fueled terror, Jim Crow segregation, and suppression of civil rights of African-Americans that continues, with powerful echoes, to this day.

May 31, 2020: Irene Triplett died at the age of 90. Because her father (who died when she was eight) fought in the War, she was eligible to receive his Civil War pension–$73.13 monthly from the Veterans Administration. That’s right: the US government was still actively paying for the Civil War 155 years after it officially “ended.”

[Originally posted on Facebook.]

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