Today in History
-- April --
Today in History ..... April 9
1865 : ROBERT E. LEE SURRENDERS
At Appomattox, Virginia, Confederate General Robert E. Lee surrenders his 28 000 troops to Union General Ulysses
S. Grant, effectively ending the American Civil War. Forced to abandon the Confederate capital of Richmond, blocked
from joining the surviving Confederate force in North Carolina, and harassed constantly by Union cavalry, Lee had
no other option.
In retreating from the Union army's Appomattox Campaign, the Army of Northern Virginia had stumbled through the
Virginia countryside stripped of food and supplies. At one point, Union cavalry forces under General Philip Sheridan
had actually outrun Lee's army, blocking their retreat and taking 6 000 prisoners at Sayler's Creek. Desertions
were mounting daily, and by April 8 the Confederates were surrounded with no possibility of escape. On April 9,
Lee sent a message to Grant announcing his willingness to surrender The two generals met in the parlor of the Wilmer
McLean home at one o'clock in the afternoon.
Lee and Grant, both holding the highest rank in their respective armies, had known each other slightly during the
Mexican War and exchanged awkward personal inquiries. Characteristically, Grant arrived in his muddy field uniform
while Lee had turned out in full dress attire, complete with sash and sword. Lee asked for the terms, and Grant
hurriedly wrote them out. All officers and men were to be pardoned, and they would be sent home with their private
property--most important, the horses, which could be used for a late spring planting. Officers would keep their
side arms, and Lee's starving men would be given Union rations.
Shushing a band that had begun to play in celebration, General Grant told his officers, "The war is over.
The Rebels are our countrymen again." Although scattered resistance continued for several weeks, for all practical
purposes the Civil War had come to an end.
Today in History ..... 12 April
1861 : The Civil War begins
The bloodiest four years in American history begin when Confederate shore batteries under General P.G.T. Beauregard
open fire on Union-held Fort Sumter in South Carolina's Charleston Bay. During the next 34 hours, 50 Confederate
guns and mortars launched more than 4000 rounds at the poorly supplied fort. On April 13, U.S. Major Robert Anderson
surrendered the fort. Two days later, U.S. President Abraham Lincoln issued a proclamation calling for 75,000 volunteer
soldiers to quell the Southern "insurrection."
As early as 1858, the ongoing conflict between North and South over the issue of slavery had led Southern leadership
to discuss a unified separation from the United States. By 1860, the majority of the slave states were publicly
threatening secession if the Republicans, the anti-slavery party, won the presidency. Following Republican Abraham
Lincoln's victory over the divided Democratic Party in November 1860, South Carolina immediately initiated secession
proceedings. On December 20, the South Carolina legislature passed the "Ordinance of Secession" which
declared that "the Union now subsisting between South Carolina and other states, under the name of the United
States of America, is hereby dissolved." After the declaration South Carolina set about seizing forts arsenals
and other strategic locations within the state. Within six weeks, five more Southern states--Mississippi, Florida,
Alabama, Georgia and Louisiana--had followed South Carolina's lead.
In February 1861, delegates from those states convened to establish a unified government. Jefferson Davis of Mississippi
was subsequently elected the first president of the Confederate States of America. When Abraham Lincoln was inaugurated
on March 4, 1861, a total of seven states (Texas had joined the pack) had seceded from the Union and federal troops
held only Fort Sumter in South Carolina, Fort Pickens off the Florida coast and a handful of minor outposts in
the South. Four years after the Confederate attack on Fort Sumter, the Confederacy was defeated at the total cost
of 620 000 Union and Confederate soldiers dead.
1864 : The
Fort Pillow Massacre During the American Civil War
Major General Nathan Bedford Forrest's Confederate raiders attack the isolated Union garrison at Fort Pillow, Tennessee
overlooking the Mississippi River. The fort, an important part of the Confederate river defense system, was captured
by federal forces in 1862 Of the 500-strong Union garrison defending the fort, more than half the soldiers were
After an initial bombardment, General Forrest asked for the garrison's surrender. The Union commander refused and
Forrest's 1,500 cavalry troopers easily stormed and captured the fort, suffering only moderate casualties. However,
the extremely high proportion of Union casualties--231 killed and more than 100 seriously wounded--raised questions
about the Confederates' conduct after the battle. Union survivors' accounts, later supported by a federal investigation,
concluded that African-American troops were massacred by Forrest's men after surrendering. Southern accounts disputed
these findings and controversy over the battle continues today.
The enlistment of African-Americans into the Union army began after the enactment of the Emancipation Proclamation
on January 1, 1863, and by the war's end 180,000 African Americans had fought in the Union army and 10,000 in the
1865 : Surrender of Mobile, Alabama
The last major Confederate port city falls when Mobile, Alabama surrenders
to Union troops
1945 : President Roosevelt dies
Franklin Delano Roosevelt, the longest serving president in American history dies of a cerebral hemorrhage three
months into his fourth term. In 1932, at the height of the Great Depression, Governor Roosevelt of New York was
elected the 32nd president of the United States. In his inaugural address in March 1933, President Roosevelt promised
Americans that "the only thing we have to fear is fear itself" and outlined his "New Deal"--an
expansion of the federal government as an instrument of employment opportunity and welfare. Although criticized
by the business community, Roosevelt's progressive legislation improved America's economic climate, and in 1936
he swept to re-election.
During his second term, he became increasingly concerned with German and Japanese aggression and so began a long
campaign to awaken America from its isolationist slumber. In 1940with World War II raging in Europe and the Pacific,
Roosevelt agreed to run for an unprecedented third term. Re-elected by Americans who valued his strong leadership,
he proved a highly effective commander in chief during World War II. Under Roosevelt's guidance, America became,
in his own words, the "great arsenal of democracy" and succeeded in shifting the balance of power in
World War II firmly in the Allies' favor. In 1944, with the war not yet won, he was re-elected to a fourth term.
Three months after his inauguration, while resting at his retreat in Warm Springs, Georgia, Roosevelt died of a
massive cerebral hemorrhage at the age of 63. Following a solemn parade of his coffin through the streets of the
nation's capital, his body was buried in a family plot in Hyde Park, New York. Millions of Americans mourned the
death of the man who led the United States through two of the greatest crises of the 20th century: the Great Depression
and World War II. Roosevelt's unparalleled 13 years as president led to the passing of the 22nd Amendment to the
U.S. Constitution, which limited future presidents to a maximum of two consecutive elected terms in office.
Today in History ..... April 14
This Day in History: Lincoln is shot
On this day in 1865, John Wilkes Booth, an actor and Confederate sympathizer fatally shoots President Abraham Lincoln
at a play at Ford's Theater in Washington, D.C. The attack came only five days after Confederate General Robert
E. Lee surrendered his massive army at Appomattox Court House, Virginia, effectively ending the American Civil
War. Booth, a Maryland native born in 1838, who remained in the North during the war despite his Confederate sympathies,
initially plotted to capture President Lincoln and take him to Richmond, the Confederate capital. However on March
20, 1865, the day of the planned kidnapping, the president failed to appear at the spot where Booth and his six
fellow conspirators lay in wait. Two weeks later, Richmond fell to Union forces.
In April, with Confederate armies near collapse across the South, Booth hatched a desperate plan to save the Confederacy.
Learning that Lincoln was to attend a performance of "Our American Cousin" at Ford's Theater on April
14, Booth masterminded the simultaneous assassination of Lincoln, Vice President Andrew Johnson and Secretary of
State William H. Seward. By murdering the president and two of his possible successors, Booth and his conspirators
hoped to throw the U.S. government into disarray. On the evening of April 14, conspirator Lewis T. Powell burst
into Secretary of State Seward's home, seriously wounding him and three others, while George A. Atzerodt, assigned
to Vice President Johnson, lost his nerve and fled. Meanwhile, just after 10 p.m., Booth entered Lincoln's private
theater box unnoticed and shot the president with a single bullet in the back of his head. Slashing an army officer
who rushed at him, Booth leapt to the stage and shouted "Sic semper tyrannis! [Thus always to tyrants]-the
South is avenged!"
Although Booth broke his leg jumping from Lincoln's box, he managed to escape Washington on horseback. The president,
mortally wounded, was carried to a lodging house opposite Ford's Theater. About 7:22 a.m. the next morning, Lincoln,
age 56, died-the first U.S. president to be assassinated. Booth, pursued by the army and other secret forces, was
finally cornered in a barn near Bowling Green, Virginia, and died from a possibly self-inflicted bullet wound as
the barn was burned to the ground. Of the eight other people eventually charged with the conspiracy, four were
hanged and four were jailed. Lincoln, the 16th U.S president, was buried on May 4, 1865, in Springfield, Illinois.
Source: The Library of Congress - http://lcweb2.loc.gov/ammem/today/today.html