The American Civil War 150th Anniversary: May 5-9, 1865

As mentioned, I decided to end the Civil War portion of this timeline on May 9th, when CS General Nathan Bedford Forrest bids farewell to his troops.

Look for the Reconstruction timeline to start tomorrow May 10th. Since it’s a Sunday this year, I’ll just follow the regular schedule with one extra day, also taking a brief look at Reconstruction in New Orleans and Louisiana (hard hats and bulletproof vests optional but recommended!).

May 5

Flight of the Confederate government: “Jefferson Davis and his party reached Sandersville, Georgia. With much of Georgia under Federal occupation, Federal cavalry units pursued him.” (10, including quote)

May 6

Reconstruction: Amnesty General Grant recommends amnesty for Robert E. Lee. (6)

May 7

Flight of the Confederate government: Grant orders the arrest of Robert M. T. Hunter and John A. Campbell. (6)

May 8

Flight of the Confederate government: “Jefferson Davis met wife Varina’s wagon train in Georgia.” (10, including quote)

May 9

Military events: CS General E. Kirby Smith refuses to accept surrender terms like those offered Generals Lee and Johnston. (10)

Flight of the Confederate government: “Jefferson Davis and his wife and party reached Irwinville, Georgia, some 70 miles from Florida.” (10, including quote)

Reconstruction: Virginia: President Johnson recognizes a Reconstruction government in Virginia and issues this executive order: “To Reestablish the Authority of the United States and Execute the Laws Within the Geographical Limits Known as the State of Virginia.” Francis Pierpoint, leader of Virginia Unionists, is appointed governor. (10)

Reconstruction; Georgia: A US Army captain arrests Governor Joseph Brown in the governor’s mansion. (17)


MAY 9, 1865.

Soldiers: By an agreement made between Lieutenant-General Taylor, commanding the Department of Alabama, Mississippi, and East- Louisiana, and Major-General Canby, commanding United States forces, the troops of this Department have been surrendered.

I do not think it proper or necessary, at this time, to refer to the causes which have reduced us to this extremity; nor is it now a matter of material consequence to us how such results were brought about. That we are BEATEN, is a self-evident fact, and any further resistance on our part would be justly regarded as the very height of folly and rashness.

The armies of Generals Lee and Johnston having surrendered, you are the last of all the troops of the Confederate States Army, east of the Mississippi river, to lay down your arms.

The cause for which you have so long and so manfully struggled, and for which you have braved dangers, endured privations and sufferings, and made so many sacrifices, is today hopeless. The Government which we sought to establish and perpetuate is at an end. Reason dictates and humanity demands that no more blood be shed. Fully realizing and feeling that such is the case, it is your duty and mine to lay down our arms — submit to the ‘powers that be’ — and to aid in restoring peace and establishing law and order throughout the land.

The terms upon which you were surrendered are favorable, and should be satisfactory and acceptable to all. They manifest a spirit of magnanimity and liberality on the part of the Federal authorities, which should be met, on our part, by a faithful compliance with all the stipulations and conditions therein expressed. As your Commander, I sincerely hope that every officer and soldier of my command will cheerfully obey the orders given, and carry out in good faith all the terms of the cartel.

Those who neglect the terms, and refuse to be paroled, may assuredly expect, when arrested, to be sent North and imprisoned.

Let those who are absent from their commands, from whatever cause, report at once to this place, or to Jackson, Mississippi; or, if too remote from either, to the nearest United States post or garrison, for parole.

Civil war, such as you have just passed through, naturally engenders feelings of animosity, hatred, and revenge. It is our duty to divest ourselves of all such feelings; and, as far as in our power to do so, to cultivate friendly feelings toward those with whom we have so long contended, and heretofore so widely, but honestly, differed. Neighborhood feuds, personal animosities, and private differences should be blotted out; and, when you return home, a manly, straightforward course of conduct will secure the respect even of your enemies. Whatever your responsibilities may be to government, to society, or to individuals, meet them like men.

The attempt made to establish a separate and independent Confederation has failed; but the consciousness of having done your duty faithfully, and to the end, will, in some measure, repay for the hardships you have undergone.

In bidding you farewell, rest assured that you carry with you my best wishes for your future welfare and happiness. Without, in any way, referring to the merits of the cause in which we have been engaged, your courage and determination, as exhibited on many hard-fought fields, have elicited the respect and admiration of friend and foe. And I now, cheerfully and gratefully, acknowledge my indebtedness to the officers and men of my command, whose zeal, fidelity, and unflinching bravery have been the great source of my past success in arms.

I have never, on the field of battle, sent you where I was unwilling to go myself; nor would I now advise you to a course which I felt myself unwilling to pursue. You have been good soldiers; you can be good citizens. Obey the laws, preserve your honor, and the Government to which you have surrendered can afford to be, and will be, magnanimous.

N. B. FORREST, Lieutenant-General



(1) The War of the Rebellion: A Compilation of the Official Records of the Union and Confederate Armies.

(2) Battle Cry of Freedom by James McPherson (2003 – see side bar for link).

(3) The Campaigns of Lieut.-Gen. N.B. Forrest, and of Forrest’s Cavalry by Thomas Jordan, J. P. Pryor (1868).

(4) Blue and Gray Timeline.

(5) Grant Chronology, Mississippi State University.

(6) Life of Lieutenant-General Nathan Bedford Forrest, by John A. Wyeth (1908/2011).

(7) CWSAC Battle Summaries

(8) Timeline 1865. State of Tennessee

(9) Up From Slavery. Booker T. Washington

(10) The Legacy of the Civil War: May 1865.

(11) The American Civil War Photo Gallery.

(12) Capture of Jefferson Davis.

(13) The Papers of Jefferson Davis, timeline. Rice University.

(14) Reconstruction Timeline. Mount Holyoke College.

(15) The American Presidency Project – Presidential Documents.

(16) Andrew Johnson Timeline. National Park Service.

(17) Georgia History Timeline/Chronology 1865.

Front Page image: Morguefile/TheBrassGlass

Categories: American Civil War

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