Appomattox, Virginia is the site where Robert E. Lee, the commander of the Army of Northern Virginia during the American Civil War, officially surrendered to Union forces. The surrender took place in the Appomattox Court House on 9 April 1865. Sporadic fighting occurred for additional months, but the loss of General Lee and his army set in motion the final conclusion of the Civil War. Southern states were subsequently occupied by United States troops, and the Era of Reconstruction began.
The American Civil War was a conflict that had been brewing for many years before open hostilities broke out. The United States was rapidly expanding westward, and the issue of whether slavery should be legal in the new territories caused significant tensions between northern and southern states. The North was generally more industrial and urban, and was growing much faster than southern states. This gave rise to fears that Southern influence in national politics was waning.
The newly-seceded Confederate States of America (CSA) fired the first shots of the war at Fort Sumter, South Carolina in 1861. In the beginning of the war, the CSA had many tactical victories. But the Union brought nearly twice as many soldiers to the battlefield as the Confederacy and dominated the naval theater. Most historians cite the Battle of Gettysburg in Pennsylvania, where the Confederates lost more than 23,000 soldiers, as the turning point in the war.
The Confederate economy collapsed, and the Union began winning tactical victories leading up to the Battle of Appomattox Court House. Robert E. Lee, who is widely regarded as an expert military strategist, was forced to abandon the capital of Richmond. He moved west, where he was soon defeated at Appomattox.
Having weak central leadership, the CSA did not have a unified response to the Robert E. Lee’s surrender at Appomattox Court House. Many armies, including those in Alabama, Mississippi, and East Louisiana, did not surrender until weeks later. The last shots of the war were fired by the Confederate warship Shenandoah in the June of 1865. U.S. President Andrew Johnson did not formally declare the war’s end until 20 August 1866.
Though organized warfare came to an end in 1865, resistance to Union laws did not. Slavery was technically abolished after the Civil War, but the Era of Reconstruction is generally viewed by historians as a failure. Violence towards blacks continued and was tolerated in many areas of the South. Significant legislation to give blacks full rights did not come until the civil rights movement about 100 years later.