Wednesday, February 23, 2022

Ends of War: The Unfinished Fight of Lee's Army After Appomattox (Caroline E. Janney)

Robert E. Lee’s surrender at Appomattox Court House is typically marked as the ending of the Civil War. While the remaining and rapidly weakening Confederate armies eventually surrendered, the end was not a clean transition. With the chaos and anxiety of Lincoln’s assassination, combined with tens of thousands of Confederate troops returning to their homes (including rebel soldiers who lived in the North but fought for the South), the end of hostilities was messy and tension-filled. Adding to this mess was the fact that not all of Lee’s soldiers surrendered on that April day, vowing to continue their cause until death or capture.

Caroline E Janney’s Ends of War: The Unfinished Fight of Lee’s Army After Appomattox shows the weeks and months after Appomattox in a different light. Janney argues that Lee’s surrender was less an end than a start of a new phase that was marked by uncertainty and tension in both political and military circles. Ulysses S. Grant, the head of the Army of the Potomac who defeated Lee, offered generous terms to every rebel soldier who would surrender. However, there was tension over how much leniency could be granted. In some towns that were close to the North or were against secession, Confederate soldiers were not welcome and were quickly kicked out of town or arrested. Janney’s account shows that the Spring and Summer of 1865 were unsettled and chaotic as the White House and the military deliberated over how to handle the rebel army.

Ends of War is a powerful depiction of how the Civil War did not simply end in one man’s parlor in Appomattox. The account of soldiers, politicians, and citizens to show the chaos and confusion in the months after Lee’s surrender demonstrates the enormous difficulty that faced the Union in its attempts to stitch the country back together again and that some were dead set against it from the get-go.