Joseph E. Johnston surrenders at Bennett Place, North Carolina, April 26th, 1865. (Library of Congress)
Upon learning of the surrender of Robert E. Lee’s Army of Northern Virginia near Appomattox Courthouse, Virginia, Confederate General Joseph E. Johnston knew continued resistance was senseless, and therefore agreed to meet with his counterpart, Maj. Gen. William T. Sherman. The culmination of the first meetings between Johnston and Sherman – taking place on the 17th and 18th of April – resulted in a momentously generous surrender agreement, which called for the reinstatement of Confederate state governments among other political and military issues. Sherman was drawn to approve the magnanimous surrender terms in accordance to Lincoln’s stated wishes for a compassionate and forgiving end to the war; however, problems immediately arose. Union officials in Washington, angry over the recent assassination of Lincoln on April 14, outright rejected them, several of whom, including Secretary of War Edwin M. Stanton, vehemently and publicly criticized Sherman for agreeing to the terms. Lt. Gen. Ulysses S. Grant arrived at Sherman’s headquarters to personally break the news that Washington refused the agreed upon terms, and that both Sherman and Johnston would have to reconvene. Upon learning that the original terms would be dissolved, Jefferson Davis ordered Johnston to disband his infantry and escape with his mounted troops. Johnston disobeyed these orders and agreed to meet with Sherman at the Bennett Farm again on April 26, 1865. In the largest surrender of Confederate troops during the war, Sherman and Johnston signed new surrender terms identical to the ones Grant extended Lee – which were themselves quite generous but excluded political factors – and ended the war for the 89,270 Confederate soldiers in North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, and Florida.