Weird History

What Actually Happened Right After The Confederates Surrendered The Civil War?  

Cheryl Adams Richkoff
11.8k views 10 items

One of the most tragic American conflagrations was the Civil War that began in 1861. It truly was a case of "brother against brother," and resulted in more than 620,000 deaths. Photos of the Civil War illustrate how lives, families, and the very land upon which the fighting occurred were changed forever. By the time the Rebels and the Yanks ended their fight in Appomattox, Virginia, in April 1865, both sides had endured quite a bit and were ready to move on to reuniting the country and healing deep, personal wounds.

So, what happened right after the Civil War ended? A number of strange and shocking events occurred immediately in the wake of the surrender, such as Abraham Lincoln's assassination. Some of the best and the worst took place within days of the Confederate surrender. Read on to discover why the Civil War aftermath was both heartwarming and bone-chilling. 

The Surrender Was Signed In Appomattox, Virginia
The Surrender Was Signed In Ap... is listed (or ranked) 1 on the list What Actually Happened Right After The Confederates Surrendered The Civil War?
Photo:  Ron Cogswell/Flickr

Appomattox was just a tiny, obscure Virginian village. It was nowhere near a port and had no railroad. And yet, it had a date with historical destiny. When Union forces surrounded their Confederate opponents in Richmond, General Robert E. Lee led the Army of Northern Virginia into a swift retreat to the west. By the time it reached Appomattox Court House, the army's numbers were decimated, its men cold and hungry. In addition, General Ulysses S. Grant of the Union had already reached Appomattox and, again, had Lee's forces surrounded. 

There was a final Battle of Appomattox Station, but Lee knew the writing was on the wall. He and Grant agreed to meet to discuss terms of the Confederate surrender, which took place in the parlor of a local business on April 9, 1865. The war was officially over, and the South rejoined the United States of America.

Within Hours Of Surrender, Confederates Were Paroled, Along With Other Kindnesses From General Grant
Within Hours Of Surrender, Con... is listed (or ranked) 2 on the list What Actually Happened Right After The Confederates Surrendered The Civil War?
Photo:  Timothy Sullivan/Wikimedia Commons

General Grant took the high road at the Appomattox surrender, setting one of the most honorable precedents in the history of warfare. He was kind and generous, treating the losing army like family. After all, the conflict was truly "brother against brother." Some say there is a lingering, peaceful feeling in Appomattox, on the grounds where the surrender took place.

Grant could have ordered all rebel soldiers and officers to be arrested and imprisoned. Instead, he paroled every single person, even setting up a temporary printing office that provided each man with a receipt that he was free to return home unmolested. When Lee mentioned that the men could use their horses for spring plowing, Grant permitted the men to take their mounts as well. The reunited country was off to a good, compassionate start because of the two generals at Appomattox. 

The Abolition Of Slavery Was Enforced And Part Of The Surrender
The Abolition Of Slavery Was E... is listed (or ranked) 3 on the list What Actually Happened Right After The Confederates Surrendered The Civil War?
Photo: Henry P. Moore/Wikimedia Commons

One unfortunate aspect concerning Lincoln's Emancipation Proclamation of 1863 is that not many slaves were actually freed following the decree. After all, the great document demanded freedom be given in a country that was at war with itself, so few slave owners paid heed to the Proclamation. 

So, when the Civil War finally came to an end, part of the deal was that slaves throughout the country would be freed. And that is exactly what happened. Another early positive in the aftermath of the Civil War. 

For Nearly Half A Year After The Surrender, Battles Continued Across The Country
For Nearly Half A Year After T... is listed (or ranked) 4 on the list What Actually Happened Right After The Confederates Surrendered The Civil War?
Photo: Kurz & Allison/Wikimedia Commons

Word didn't travel very fast back in 1865, and so battles and skirmishes continued after the surrender documents were signed at Appomattox. Even when dispatches finally arrived to forces in the west and southwest, some refused to believe the papers and continued to fight. In fact, the final Confederate surrender did not take place until November of that year, when the war ship and merchant vessel of the Confederates, the CSS Shenandoah, surrendered to the Union.