Return to Vignettes List Previous Section: Lincoln and Frederick Douglass | Next Section: Memorializing Lincoln

Soon after becoming commander of the Union army in 1864, Grant implemented a strategy of coordinated strikes against the Confederacy on multiple fronts. Grant pressed Robert E. Lee’s Army of Northern Virginia south toward Richmond. Union forces pinned down Lee’s troops at Petersburg, where the armies engaged in trench warfare for more than nine months. A decisive Union victory on April 1, 1865, at Five Forks, southwest of Petersburg, opened the way for Grant to completely encircle Lee. Lee had no choice but to abandon Petersburg. With his army in full retreat westward, Richmond also had to be evacuated. Federal troops entered the Confederate capital on April 3, 1865. Six days later, Lee surrendered his ill-equipped and exhausted army at Appomattox Court House, effectively ending the war.

There is a God governing the world.

In this letter to Thurlow Weed, written during the final weeks of the Civil War, Lincoln stated that his Second Inaugural Address would not be “immediately popular,” with its inclusive message and refusal to lay blame. The letter is also a rare declaration of Lincoln’s faith in God. Lincoln seems firm in the belief that the purpose of this protracted war is unknowable. “To deny it . . . is to deny that there is a God governing the world. It is a truth which I thought needed to be told.”

Abraham Lincoln to Thurlow Weed, March 15, 1865. Holograph letter (215) Digital ID # al0215

Bookmark this item: http://www.loc.gov/exhibits/lincoln/at-wars-end.html#obj0

Grounds of Richmonds Ruined Arsenal

The Burnt District in Richmond was a pitiable sight for the various photographers who scrambled to record the Confederate capital in the last days of the Civil War. As the government collapsed and people rioted, fires—meant to destroy the arsenal, bridges, and anything of military value—spread to a large part of the citys prime commercial district. Richmonds weary and long-suffering inhabitants searched for missing friends and relations and combed the ashes for what could be saved. Northern forces, including an African American infantry brigade, entered burned-out Richmond on April 3, 1865. On the following day, President Lincoln visited the devastated Confederate capital.

Andrew J. Russell. Ruins in Richmond, Virginia, April 1865. Albumen silver print. Prints and Photographs Division, Library of Congress (199) Digital ID # cwpb-02640

Bookmark this item: http://www.loc.gov/exhibits/lincoln/at-wars-end.html#obj1

Lee Surrenders

In his retreat from Petersburg, Virginia, Lee had hoped to make a final stand in North Carolina, but Federal cavalry destroyed supply depots along his route. Then, on April 6, at Saylors Creek, Federal troops surrounded and captured nearly a quarter of Lees remaining forces. The inevitable end came on April 9 in the town of Appomattox Court House, where, in the historic meeting at the McLean House, Lee surrendered the Army of Northern Virginia to Ulysses S. Grant. Although several more battles took place after Lees surrender, as the news spread, the other Confederate commanders decided to lay down their own arms. On May 10, President Andrew Johnson declared all hostilities at an end.

Virginia! Lee Surrenders! The Rebellion Ended! New-York Tribune, April 10, 1865. Serial and Government Publications Division, Library of Congress (201) Digital ID # al0201

Bookmark this item: http://www.loc.gov/exhibits/lincoln/at-wars-end.html#obj2

Back to top

Return to Vignettes List Previous Section: Lincoln and Frederick Douglass | Next Section: Memorializing Lincoln