150 Years Ago This Week: It is finished

August 1865-1866

When CSS Shenandoah set sail for Liverpool on Aug. 2, 1865 after the crew learned from the British ship Barracouta that the war had ended months earlier and that the Confederacy had collapsed, the North and South were still settling into a somewhat uneasy peace.

On Tuesday, Aug. 29, President Andrew Johnson proclaimed that even articles declared as contraband could now be traded with states “recently declared in insurrection.” The proclamation took effect on Sept. 1. On Sept. 14, at Fort Smith, Arkansas, representatives of the Cherokee, Creek, Choctaw, Chickasaw, Osage, Seminole, Seneca, Shawnee and Quapaw tribes signed a treaty of loyalty to the United States and renounced all Confederate agreements. Additional Indian tribes did the same as time went on. A week later, on Sept. 21, a treaty was signed with the Choctaw and Chickasaw which called for peace and friendship and abolished slavery.

On Oct. 11, Confederate Vice President Alexander Stephens, Cabinet members John H. Reagan and George Trenholm, Gov. Charles Clark of Mississippi and Assistant Secretary of War John A. Campbell were paroled by President Johnson; all had been held in prison since the collapse of the Confederacy.

The following day, martial law in Kentucky was ended by presidential proclamation. On Nov. 6, after sailing 17,000 sea miles since Aug. 2, the CSS Shenandoah finally arrived in Liverpool; Lt. James Waddell surrendered the ship and crew to Capt. James Paynter of the Royal Navy, representing the British government. After some legal wangling, the Shenandoah’s crew were allowed to go free.

On Nov. 10, after a short military war-crimes trial in which he was charged with cruelty to Federal prisoners of war, Confederate Capt. Henry Wirz, commandant of the Confederate prisoner of war camp at Andersonville, Georgia, was hanged in Washington. His trial and execution are still debated today, as he was a victim of the inadequate Confederate supply system not of his making, and conditions were equally as bad in many of the Union prisoner of war camps. The 13th Amendment was ratified by South Carolina on Nov. 13.

December 1865: President Johnson on Dec. 1 revoked the suspension of the writ of habeas corpus for all of the United States except for in the former Confederate States, the District of Columbia and the territories of Arizona and New Mexico. The next day, Alabama ratified the 13th Amendment, as did North Carolina on Dec. 4, while the Mississippi legislature rejected it. The states of Georgia and Oregon also ratified the 13th on Dec. 5 and Dec. 11, respectively. The following week, on Dec. 18, the 13th Amendment — abolishing slavery — was declared in effect by Secretary of State William Seward after approval by 27 states.

April 2, 1866: “Now, therefore I, Andrew Johnson, President of the United States, do hereby proclaim and declare that the insurrection which heretofore existed in the States of Georgia, South Carolina, Virginia, North Carolina, Tennessee, Alabama, Louisiana, Mississippi, and Florida is at an end, and is to henceforth be so regarded.” Only Texas was omitted from the proclamation because its provisional government had not yet been formed. In a new proclamation issued on Monday, August 20, 1866, after the formation of the new government in Texas, President Johnson declared, “I further proclaim that the said insurrection is at an end, and that peace, order, tranquility, and civil authority now exist in and throughout the whole of the United States of America.” The bloodiest war in our history was officially over.

The 2011-2015 sesquicentennial, or 150th anniversary commemoration, of the War Between the States, 1861-65, is finished. It has been my sincere and distinct pleasure to have shared with you, our readers, the fruits of my research and study over the past four years, since this column began in November 2010, with the commemoration of Abraham Lincoln’s first election as 16th president of the United States in 1860. We have examined each week the social, economic, international, and military history of what is perhaps the most momentous period in American history; the changes that occurred 150 years ago are still being felt and debated in 2015. I leave our readers with one final thought: Those who forget or are ignorant of the mistakes of the past are doomed to repeat them in the future.

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