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The Civil War Month by Month: May 1865

CW - 150

Civil War 150th anniversary

The Civil War 150th Anniversary

Interesting facts, links, and suggested books for each month of the Civil War.

May 1865

This Month's Events

In this month, in the mountain counties of North Carolina, chaos reigns as bands of bushwhackers take advantage of the lack of organized troops and law officers to raid and steal. Men from several counties finally unite to wipe out one band of marauders at "Fort Hamby" and a short while later a detachment of Federal soldiers suceeds in capturing one of the other outlaw leaders.
  • 1 May. At Greensboro, General Robert F. Hoke issues a circular bidding farewell to his troops. He then returns home to Lincolnton where the 27 year old ex-general hitches his horse, Old Joe, to a plow and sets about making a crop for his family. .

  • During the month in the woods near White Sulpher Springs (now Waynesville), North Carolina, a Union soldier named James Arwood is killed in a skirmish. He is believed to be the the last regular soldier, Union or Confederate, to die east of the Mississippi. Arwood is buried in Asheville.

  • 6-14 May. In the mountains, the last Confederate forces in North Carolina surrender as the news of Lee's surrender and of negotiated surrenders reaches them.

  • 8 May. Capt. Bromfield Ridley and companions have surrendered and for them the war is over. Traveling home to Tennessee, they are camped for the night near Kings Mountain. They sit around the fire and sing: "Just Before the Battle, Mother"; "Tramp, Tramp, Tramp, The Boys Are Marching"; "Joe Bowers"; "Lorena"; "Maryland"; "Dixie"; "When This Cruel War Is Over" and "The Girl I Left Behind Me".
    "If ever I get through this war,
    And Lincoln's chains don't bind me,
    I'll make my way to Tennessee--
    To the girl I left behind me."

    This touching tribute to Tennessee girls is weakened by the space he devotes in his journal tonight to a Kings Mountain girl seen today. "My idea of a veritable mountain maid. ... Zounds! She was the top blossom of the mountain, and prettier than any flower in the valley." Captain Ridley is ready to think about things other than war.

  • 10 May. Jefferson Davis is captured at Irwinville, Georgia.

  • 13 May. At Palmito Ranch, Texas the news from the east has not yet been received and Confederate forces win a victory in what is regarded as the last land battle of the war.

  • 26 May. Terms of surrender are offered to General E. Kirby Smith, commander of the Trans-Mississippi Department. He will finally surrender on June 2.

  • 29 May. President Johnson issues a proclamation of amnesty offering pardons to most Confederates other than top Confederate officers and government officials. At the same time he appoints William Woods Holden as provisional governor of North Carolina.

This Month's Fiction

Adult Fiction:

American Falls: a Novel, by John Calvin Batchelor, pub. 1985, 570 p. "This is an unusual Civil War novel. It deals not with military campaigns or battles, but with the Confederate incendiary attack on New York City late in November 1864, and with the espionage and counterespionage activities that preceded it. As such it can be enjoyed simply as a complex cat-and-mouse tale of pursuit and evasion, of widening interlocking plots and ever-constricting suspense. But it is much more. Only Richard Slotkin's The Crater approaches the depth of its historical appreciation of the many issues involved in the war. And for Batchelor it is a war that still continues: his American Civil War is a metaphor for the civil war raging in the American soul between liberty and conscience, virtue and betrayal, greed and guilt, success and failure. This is a more traditional novel than his earlier books and is Dickensian in scope and characterization and in its compulsive readability. An exceptional work."

Children's Fiction

This Month's Non-Fiction

Adult Nonfiction:

Last Train South : the Flight of the Confederate Government from Richmond, by James C. Clark, pub. 1984, 164 p., call #:973.738 C. The story begins in March 1865 as Union troops closed in on Richmond. Jefferson Davis tries to establish new capitals in Danville, Greensboro, and Charlotte and is ultimately captured in Georgia. Secretary of War Breckinridge dons the style of a pirate to escape. Secretary of State Benjamin disguises himself as a poor farmer-with his gold sewn inside his clothes. Nearly 60 primary and secondary sources were used to research this dramatic history. The book contains sketches made by an artist who accompanied Davis on much of the escape, and includes maps of the escape route.

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