Despite popular belief, the Civil War did not end when Robert E. Lee
surrendered to Ulysses S. Grant at Appomattox, Virginia, in April 1865.
The Confederacy still had tens of thousands of soldiers under arms, in
three main field armies and countless smaller commands scattered
throughout the South. Although pressed by Union forces at varying
degrees, all of the remaining Confederate armies were capable of
continuing the war if they chose to do so. But they did not, even when
their political leaders ordered them to continue the fight. Convinced
that most civilians no longer wanted to continue the war, the senior
Confederate military leadership, over the course of several weeks,
surrendered their armies under different circumstances.
Gen. Joseph Johnston surrendered his army in North Carolina only after
contentious negotiations with Gen. William Tecumseh Sherman. Gen.
Richard Taylor ended the fighting in Alabama in the face of two massive
Union incursions into the state rather than try to consolidate with
other Confederate armies. Personal rivalry also played a part in his
practical considerations to surrender. Gen. Edmund Kirby Smith had the
decision to surrender taken out of his hands—disastrous economic
conditions in his Trans-Mississippi Department had eroded morale to such
an extent that his soldiers demobilized themselves, leaving Kirby Smith
a general without an army. The end of the Confederacy was a messy and
complicated affair, a far cry from the tidy closure associated with the
events at Appomattox.
“The important disconnect between the political leadership (Davis, etc.)
and the military in the field at the end of the war across theaters is
well-explored.” —–Barton A. Myers, author of Rebels against the
Confederacy: North Carolina’s Unionists