Last Civil War Battle and Final Surrender of the Civil War

Thomas' Legion
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Last Civil War Battle
Final Surrender of the Civil War


Where was the Last Civil War Battle? Did it make any difference in the outcome of the war? No, but it is interesting nonetheless and it promotes a good study, because where there was battle, there was motive. Why did some of the Southern armies continue to fight the Union military for months after Lee surrendered to Grant? Another question often asked is "When was the Final Civil War Battle?" You will soon be able to answer those questions and also explain: The Last Civil War Battle, Final Civil War Surrender History, i.e. date and location of last battle fought by each Confederate army, as well as the final order of surrendering Confederate forces, i.e. the timeline that each Confederate unit surrendered. We will begin East of the Mississippi River and then expand our study to the entire nation. Formal surrenders, which adhered to an official and formal process, applied to recognized Confederate units, but not necessarily to partisans.

The reader should note that for years following the American Civil War (1861-1865), former partisans, many having fought while attached to guerrilla units during the conflict, now applied their acquired war skills by raiding communities, and robbing banks, stage coaches, and sometimes trains. Now known as the Wild West era, former guerrillas, such as the likes of Frank and Jesse James, and the Younger Brothers, who all served in Quantrill's Raiders (with founder William Clarke Quantrill and notorious "Bloody" Bill Anderson) joined forces to form the James-Younger Gang, and by applying hit-and-run tactics, the gang unleashed havoc across a wide swath of the nation for personal gain, and at times the gang employed its own version of justice because of so-called former wrongs caused by the Union Army. Although several outlaws and partisans, during Reconstruction (1865-1877) and beyond, had proclaimed that they were merely administering retribution for wrongs caused by the Union, in practically every occasion financial gain was actually the principal motive.

Often not discussed is what connection, if any, did the Civil War have on ushering in the Wild West era. The Civil War is a fascinating subject to study and is connected to numerous history subjects and topics. But it was said conflict and the Homestead Act of 1862 that were the principal causes of growth and expansion of the nation westward, thus causing a booming population in the Wild West. Both also ushered in the creating and settling of many major cities in the United States. Whereas families, wanting a fresh start from the disastrous Civil War, would also relocate westward, the Homestead Act was a major cause of Native American land encroachment, because as homesteaders moved west, they discovered gold and silver on sacred Indian lands, thus resulting in Indian Wars that would cease only with the last nation conquered in 1890. Similar to connecting the dots, the Civil War was an intricate and major event in shaping the growth and development of the nation.

When did the Civil War End? Where did it end?
Location that Lee surrendered to Grant.jpg
This is the place, the room where Lee surrendered to Grant

(About) Panoramic image of the reconstructed parlor of the McLean House. On April 9, 1865, Ulysses S. Grant sat at the simple wooden table on the right, while Robert E. Lee sat at the more ornate marble-topped table on the left. Replicas replace the tables used by Lee and Grant in the McLean house for the surrender documents.

The Last Civil War Battle

East of the Mississippi River, "The Last Shot" of the American Civil War, as the masses refer to it, occurred in White Sulphur Springs (present-day Waynesville), North Carolina, and the final Confederate troops surrendered at nearby Franklin. Both historical events were referenced to the Thomas Legion — the largest single military unit raised in Old Carolina during the war.

The Last Civil War Battle Memorial
Last Battle of Civil War Memorial Waynesville.jpg
(Photo of Last Civil War Battle Memorial)

(About) Last Shot of the Civil War Memorial, Waynesville, North Carolina.
The Thomas Legion fires the last shot of the American Civil War east of the Mississippi River.
On May 6, 1865, Lt. Robert T. Conley and a small company from Thomas' North Carolina Legion clashed with Lt. Col. William C. Bartlett's 2nd North Carolina (Federal) Mounted Infantry in White Sulphur Springs. When Conley's men were passing through the woods they would slam headlong into Bartlett's unit. Hastily forming a skirmish line, Conley's command then raised their rifles and fired a volley directly into the foe, forcing the Federals to skedaddle in confusion. One man lay dead, however. East of the Mississippi, and nearly one month after Lee surrendered to Grant, Union soldier James Arwood became the last man killed in the Civil War. For years following the conflict, Mr. Conley would often say, "I still have James Arwood's gun as a relic." The Last Shot should also be defined as the last Union and Confederate forces in combat east of the Mississippi and should not be viewed or confused with the United States Army fighting bushwhackers and outlaws.

The Final Formal Surrender of the Civil War

Captain Stephen Whitaker surrenders the final Confederate soldiers to Colonel George W. Kirk.

The Last Civil War Surrender
The Last Civil War Surrender.jpg
Final Surrender of the Civil War

(About) The final Civil War surrender with the parole signatures of Captain Stephen Whitaker and Company E, First Battalion (Walker's Battalion), Thomas' Legion.

Final Civil War Surrender Memorial at Franklin, NC
Final Surrender Memorial Franklin, NC.jpg
Parole Signatures of the Final Surrender of the Civil War

East of the Mississippi River, Thomas' Legion of Indians and Highlanders would participate in the Final Surrender of the American Civil War on May 12, 1865.
The soldiers of Company E, First Battalion, Thomas' Legion, signed their parole papers beginning on May 12, with the last signature recorded on May 14, 1865. Colonel William H. Thomas, the unit's namesake, had surrendered the rest of the legion a few days earlier on May 9, near present-day Waynesville, North Carolina. After participating in the Skirmish of Hanging Dog in Cherokee County, Captain Stephen Whitaker and Co. E were moving toward White Sulphur Springs to reinforce Thomas when they were intercepted by the Federals at Franklin. Having been ordered to Franklin by Brig. Gen. Davis Tillson, Colonel George W. Kirk and the Union 3rd North Carolina Mounted Infantry would now move toward Whitaker, who would instruct his men to form a skirmish line. (O.R., 1, Vol. 49, part II, pp. 689-690.) But once he received word and was convinced of Col. Thomas and Brig. Gen. James Martin surrendering at Waynesville, Whitaker and his small contingent would also surrender. On May 14, 1865, when the Thomas Legion soldiers finished signing their paroles, they viewed Whitaker roll them up, tie them, place them in a Haversack, and give them to Col. Kirk's Courier. "And thus at 10 o'clock in the morning of May 14, 1865, our Civil War Soldier Life ended and our Every Day Working Life began," wrote John H. Stewart of the Thomas Legion. The men who surrendered to Kirk, had also become the last Confederates to capitulate this side of the Mississippi. Returning to their former homes, they would strive to rebuild their communities during the aftermath, an era otherwise known as Reconstruction.

Letter regarding Captain Stephen Whitaker's parole:

                                                                         Head Quarters 3rd Regt. N.C. Mtd. Infty.
                                                                         Franklin, N.C. May 12th, 1865
The bearer here of Stephen Whitaker Captain* Co. E 1st Batt. Thomas Legion C.S.A. having given his word of honor not to take up arms against the United States Government, nor give aid or assistance to its enemies until duly exchanged as a prisoner of war is paroled and has permission to go to his home and there remain unmolested.
W.W. Rollins Maj                                             By order of Col. George W. Kirk
3rd N.C. Mtd Infty                                                          Cmg 3rd N.C. Mtd Infty

*Establishes the fact that when Stephen Whitaker was paroled he was recognized as a captain and not a major. However, William Stringfield, Robert A. Akin, and others referred to the aforementioned as MAJOR Stephen Whitaker. In reconciling the disparity, this writer concludes: Captain or Major? A captain was the assigned rank for company commander, and major or lieutenant colonel was the assigned rank for a battalion commander. The disparity in Whitaker's rank may be due to the fact that for a portion of the war, Whitaker commanded the entire First Battalion, Thomas' Legion. Again, typically, a major or lieutenant colonel commanded a "battalion" and therefore, unofficially and respectfully, many referred to Stephen Whitaker as MAJOR. It is also the writer's view that Stephen Whitaker should have been officially promoted to at least major due to "rank versus responsibility."

The Union Army recruited two mounted Infantry regiments within North Carolina, and both mounted regiments were raised principally from Western North Carolina counties: William C. Bartlett, Union's 2nd North Carolina Mounted Infantry Regiment; and George W. Kirk, Union's 3rd North Carolina Mounted Infantry Regiment. Recruitment of these regiments epitomized the "Brother's War" and the men serving in the two Union mounted infantry regiments were commonly referred to as "Home Yankees."  Approximately 10,000 white North Carolinians served the United States during the war, while more than 5,000 North Carolina African Americans joined the Union Army. These free blacks and escaped slaves served in segregated regiments led by white officers.

Union Major General George Stoneman's command as it concerns Western North Carolina in 1865: Second North Carolina Mounted Infantry Regiment, Lieut. Colonel William C. Bartlett; Third North Carolina Mounted Infantry Regiment, Colonel George W. Kirk; First Brigade, Commanding Colonel Chauncey G. Hawley; Fourth Division, Department of the Cumberland, Brig. General Davis Tillson; District of East Tennessee, Major General George Stoneman (To view entire Union District of East Tennessee, including 1st and 2nd Brigades, and Brig. Gen. A. C. Gillem's Cavalry Division, please see Stoneman's Cavalry Raid and O.R., 1, 49, Part II, pp. 538-539)

Date the Civil War ended?
Date Civil War ended was April 9, 1865.jpg
The parlor in the McLean House where Lee surrendered to Grant on April 9, 1865

(About) Surrender at Appomattox. Ely Parker, a Seneca Indian, is third from right, back row. The Room in the McLean House, at Appomattox C.H., in which Gen. Lee surrendered to Gen. Grant Most written accounts of Robert E. Lee’s surrender to Ulysses S. Grant at Appomattox on April 9, 1865, noted the difference between Lee’s stiff dignity and Grant’s more relaxed demeanor. This lithograph of the event, showing the two men as they waited for the peace terms to be copied, captures that difference better than most. After the surrender, Wilmer McLean, the owner of the house, lost much of his furniture to soldiers desiring mementos of the historic event. Later, in what proved to be a futile effort to recoup his losses and raise funds for his needy family, he commissioned this print. Pictured Left to Right: John Gibbon, George Armstrong Custer, Cyrus B. Comstock, Orville E. Babcock, Charles Marshall, Walter H. Taylor, Robert E. Lee, Philip Sheridan, Ulysses S. Grant, John Aaron Rawlins, Charles Griffin, unidentified, George Meade, Ely S. Parker, James W. Forsyth, Wesley Merritt, Theodore Shelton Bowers, Edward Ord. The man not identified in the picture’s legend is thought to be General Joshua Chamberlain, a hero of Gettysburg who presided over the formal surrender of arms by Lee’s Army of Northern Virginia on April 12, 1865.

Order of Surrendering Confederate Forces

On April 9, 1865, General Robert E. Lee surrendered the Army of Northern Virginia to Lieutenant General Ulysses S. Grant at the home of Wilmer and Virginia McLean in the town of Appomattox Court House, Virginia. On April 26, 1865, General Joseph Johnston surrendered to Major General William T. Sherman near Durham, North Carolina (Bennett Place State Historical Park). On May 4, 1865,  General Richard Taylor (son of Zachary Taylor, 12th President of the United States) surrendered at Citronelle, Alabama. On May 12, 1865, Captain Stephen Whitaker surrendered Walker's Battalion to Colonel Kirk. On May 26, 1865, General Edmund Kirby Smith surrendered the Confederate Department of the Trans Mississippi to Major General Canby. On June 23, 1865, General and Cherokee Chief Stand Watie surrendered Cherokee forces in Oklahoma. Continued below...

Recommended Reading: Fields of Honor: Pivotal Battles of the Civil War, by Edwin C. Bearss (Author), James McPherson (Introduction). Description: Bearss, a former chief historian of the National Parks Service and internationally recognized American Civil War historian, chronicles 14 crucial battles, including Fort Sumter, Shiloh, Antietam, Gettysburg, Vicksburg, Chattanooga, Sherman's march through the Carolinas, and Appomattox--the battles ranging between 1861 and 1865; included is an introductory chapter describing John Brown's raid in October 1859. Bearss describes the terrain, tactics, strategies, personalities, the soldiers and the commanders. (He personalizes the generals and politicians, sergeants and privates.) Continued below...

The text is augmented by 80 black-and-white photographs and 19 maps. It is like touring the battlefields without leaving home. A must for every one of America's countless Civil War buffs, this major work will stand as an important reference and enduring legacy of a great historian for generations to come. Also available in hardcover: Fields of Honor: Pivotal Battles of the Civil War.

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Recommended Viewing: The Civil War - A Film by Ken Burns. Review: The Civil War - A Film by Ken Burns is the most successful public-television miniseries in American history. The 11-hour Civil War didn't just captivate a nation, reteaching to us our history in narrative terms; it actually also invented a new film language taken from its creator. When people describe documentaries using the "Ken Burns approach," its style is understood: voice-over narrators reading letters and documents dramatically and stating the writer's name at their conclusion, fresh live footage of places juxtaposed with still images (photographs, paintings, maps, prints), anecdotal interviews, and romantic musical scores taken from the era he depicts. Continued below...
The Civil War uses all of these devices to evoke atmosphere and resurrect an event that many knew only from stale history books. While Burns is a historian, a researcher, and a documentarian, he's above all a gifted storyteller, and it's his narrative powers that give this chronicle its beauty, overwhelming emotion, and devastating horror. Using the words of old letters, eloquently read by a variety of celebrities, the stories of historians like Shelby Foote and rare, stained photos, Burns allows us not only to relearn and finally understand our history, but also to feel and experience it. "Hailed as a film masterpiece and landmark in historical storytelling." "[S]hould be a requirement for every student."
Recommended Reading: The Civil War Battlefield Guide: The Definitive Guide, Completely Revised, with New Maps and More Than 300 Additional Battles (Second Edition) (Hardcover). Description: This new edition of the definitive guide to Civil War battlefields is really a completely new book. While the first edition covered 60 major battlefields, from Fort Sumter to Appomattox, the second covers all of the 384 designated as the "principal battlefields" in the American Civil War Sites Advisory Commission Report. Continued below...
 As in the first edition, the essays are authoritative and concise, written by such leading Civil War historians as James M. McPherson, Stephen W. Sears, Edwin C. Bearss, James I. Robinson, Jr., and Gary W. Gallager. The second edition also features 83 new four-color maps covering the most important battles. The Civil War Battlefield Guide is an essential reference for anyone interested in the Civil War. "Reading this book is like being at the bloodiest battles of the war..."


Recommended Reading: Storm in the Mountains: Thomas' Confederate Legion of Cherokee Indians and Mountaineers (Thomas' Legion: The Sixty-ninth North Carolina Regiment). Description: Vernon H. Crow, Storm in the Mountains, spent 10 years conducting extensive Thomas Legion's research. Crow was granted access to rare manuscripts, special collections, and privately held diaries which add great depth to this rarely discussed Civil War legion. He explores and discusses the unit's formation, fighting history, and life of the legion's commander--Cherokee chief and Confederate colonel--William Holland Thomas. Continued below...

Numerous maps and photographs allow the reader to better understand and relate to the subjects discussed. It also contains rosters which is an added bonus for researchers and genealogists. From the first shot of the Civil War to the last battle east of the Mississippi River, it allows the reader to experience the life and death of the Confederate foot soldier. Crow, furthermore, left no stone unturned while examining the many facets of the Thomas Legion and his research is conveyed on a level that scores with Civil War students and scholars alike.


Recommended Viewing: Indian Warriors - The Untold Story of the Civil War (History Channel) (2007). Description: Though largely forgotten, 20 to 30 thousand Native Americans fought in the Civil War. Ely Parker was a Seneca leader who found himself in the thick of battle under the command of General Ulysses S. Grant. Stand Watie--a Confederate general and a Cherokee--was known for his brilliant guerrilla tactics. Continued below...

Also highlighted is Henry Berry Lowery, an Eastern North Carolina Indian, who became known as the Robin Hood of North Carolina. Respected Civil War authors, Thom Hatch and Lawrence Hauptman, help reconstruct these most captivating stories, along with descendants like Cherokee Nation member Jay Hanna, whose great-grandfathers fought for both the Union and the Confederacy. Together, they reveal a new, fresh perspective and the very personal reasons that drew these Native Americans into the fray.


Recommended Reading: Confederate Military History Of North Carolina: North Carolina In The Civil War, 1861-1865. Description: The author, Prof. D. H. Hill, Jr., was the son of Lieutenant General Daniel Harvey Hill (North Carolina produced only two lieutenant generals and it was the second highest rank in the army) and his mother was the sister to General “Stonewall” Jackson’s wife. In Confederate Military History Of North Carolina, Hill discusses North Carolina’s massive task of preparing and mobilizing for the conflict; the many regiments and battalions recruited from the Old North State; as well as the state's numerous contributions during the war. Continued below...

During Hill's Tar Heel State study, the reader begins with interesting and thought-provoking statistical data regarding the 125,000 "Old North State" soldiers that fought during the course of the war and the 40,000 that perished. Hill advances with the Tar Heels to the first battle at Bethel, through numerous bloody campaigns and battles--including North Carolina’s contributions at the "High Watermark" at Gettysburg--and concludes with Lee's surrender at Appomattox.

Recommended ReadingThe Civil War in North Carolina. Description: Numerous battles and skirmishes were fought in North Carolina during the Civil War, and the campaigns and battles themselves were crucial in the grand strategy of the conflict and involved some of the most famous generals of the war. Continued below...

John Barrett presents the complete story of military engagements across the state, including the classical pitched battle of Bentonville--involving Generals Joe Johnston and William Sherman--the siege of Fort Fisher, the amphibious campaigns on the coast, and cavalry sweeps such as General George Stoneman's Raid.

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