by Sandra Merville Hart
Most people believe the Civil War ended when Confederate General Robert E. Lee surrendered his Army of Northern Virginia to Union General Ulysses S. Grant at Appomattox on April 9, 1865. Not exactly. There were several other Confederate armies that had to surrender.
Rather than surrender, Colonel John S. Mosby, leader of “Mosby’s Raiders,” disbanded his cavalry troops on April 21, 1865.
General Joseph E. Johnston’s Army of Tennessee surrendered at the Bennett Place to Union General Sherman with the final agreement signed on April 26, 1865.
Lieutenant General Richard Taylor surrendered his Department of Alabama, Mississippi, and East Louisiana to Union Major General Edward Canby at Citronville, Alabama, on May 4, 1865.
Major General Dabney Maury surrendered his Confederate District of the Gulf to Union Major General Edward Canby at Citronville, Alabama, on May 4, 1865.
Brig. General M. Jeff Thompson surrendered his Sub-District of Northwest Arkansas at two Arkansas locations, Wittsburg and Jacksonport, on May 11, 1865.
Brig. General William T. Wofford surrendered his Department of North Georgia to Union Brigadier General Henry M. Judah in Kingston, Georgia, on May 12, 1865.
Lieutenant General Edmund Kirby Smith, commander of Trans-Mississippi Department, signed a surrender aboard the USS Fort Jackson just outside Galveston Harbor on June 2, 1865.
Cherokee General Stand Watie surrendered his First Indian Brigade at Doaksville on June 23, 1865.
After General Lee’s surrender, the other Confederate armies soon followed.
Yet the last surrender may surprise you, for this one didn’t even take place in the United States.
The CSS Shenandoah was purchased in England for the Confederate States Navy in 1864. Formerly the Sea King, the ship was converted to a warship in the Atlantic Ocean near the Spanish coast. Confederate Lt. James Iredell Waddell commanded the ship.
Waddell renamed the ship CSS Shenandoah. It required at least 150 men to sail and operate the warship. When he left the coast of Spain, he had only recruited 43 men for his crew. Since the ship’s task was to disrupt Union shipping, Waddell and his officers decided to increase its crew from the capture of Union ships.
They sailed toward the Cape of Good Hope and then toward Melbourne, Australia, successfully capturing Union ships, cargo, and crews. Some ships were burned or sunk and others were ransomed. The officers and crew of CSS Shenandoah had been quite successful in pursuing Union merchant ships when they had to stop for repairs on January 25, 1865, in Melbourne, Australia.
The crew grew from captured crew members just as Waddell had hoped.
After repairs were completed, Waddell sailed the Pacific Ocean in search of the American whaling fleet and captured ships near the equator in April. The CSS Shenandoah had set sail for the Bering Sea when General Robert E. Lee surrendered at Appomattox on April 9, 1865, though Waddell, being in the middle of the ocean, was unaware of this first of several surrenders. He continued his pursuit of Union merchant ships.
Upon reaching the Bering Sea on June 21st, the CSS Shenandoah captured two whalers the next day. Captain Francis Smith of the William Thompson informed Waddell that the war had ended. Waddell didn’t believe him and burned both the William Thompson and the Euphrates as Union ships.
If the war had ended as Captain Smith claimed, future capture of Union ships risked a charge of piracy. Unconvinced, Waddell continued his mission.
Thirty-eight ships had been captured or destroyed by the CSS Shenandoah when Waddell learned of the war’s end from a source he trusted. The crew of the Barracouta, a British ship, gave him the news on August 2, 1865.
Hoping to escape being charged with piracy and hung, Waddell sailed for Liverpool, England. The 9,000-mile voyage took three months. The ship’s crew, fearing capture if it replenished supplies at a port, never stopped. Union ships pursued the CSS Shenandoah the whole journey.
Waddell surrendered in Liverpool to the HMS Donegal on November 6, 1865. It was the final surrender of the Civil War.
History.com Editors. “CSS Shenandoah learns the war is over,” A&E Television Networks, 2020/12/28 https://www.history.com/this-day-in-history/css-shenandoah-learns-the-war-is-over.
Marcello, Paul J. “Shenandoah 1864-1865,” Naval History and Heritage Command, 2020/12/28 https://www.history.navy.mil/research/histories/ship-histories/confederate_ships/shenandoah.html.
Plante, Trevor K. “Ending the Bloodshed,” Prologue Magazine National Archives, 2021/01/04 https://www.archives.gov/publications/prologue/2015/spring/cw-surrenders.html.