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Later stages of the Civil War - Appomattox and Lincoln's assassination

KC‑5.3.I.D (KC)
Unit 5: Learning Objective I
WOR (Theme)
The end of the Civil War, including Lee's surrender at Appomattox and the assassination of Abraham Lincoln.

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Video transcript

- [Voiceover] So in the last video, we talked about the year 1864 in the American Civil War, and now we're getting down to the very end of the war. In 1864, William Tecumseh Sherman had his sort of famous march to the sea, where he captured Atlanta and then carried on a total war through the state of Georgia to Savannah, and from Savannah he turns north and starts heading to the forces of Grant, so he can back him up in a final victory against Lee, who has encamped in Richmond. Meanwhile, Abraham Lincoln wins the election of 1864, and is ready to bring this war to a close. So let's move on to 1865. A lot happens very quickly in 1865, starting with, in January, Congress passed the 13th Amendment. The 13th Amendment outlawed slavery for all time. It's clear that when the south is brought back in to the United States, it is going to be brought back in without slavery, there is no option for slavery in the United States going forward. Now Grant, after his incredible victory in Tennessee, in Vicksburg, has been going after Lee's army in Virginia. Now Lee has holed up in Richmond and eventually, he realizes his forces can't stay there anymore, they can't hold the city, so in the beginning of April, they evacuate Richmond and on April 3rd, the United States forces occupy Richmond. Abraham Lincoln himself actually goes down to visit Richmond, which he'd never been to before, and he even goes to the government building in Richmond where Confederate President Jefferson Davis had governed, and goes into his office. He's there less than 48 hours after Davis himself had left. And then events, after that, events take place very quickly. So Lee falls back from Richmond to Petersburg, and Grant is kind of marking him the whole time, and they retreat across Virginia to the west, Lee is probably heading for Lynchburg, and Grant manages to catch up with him at Appomattox. At first, Lee thinks that he's actually going to fight at Appomattox, and then he realizes he just does not have the men necessary, so he invites Grant to come and have a parlay for surrender, and they meet, this is actually a picture of Lee outside the house in Appomattox courthouse, Virginia, where he surrendered the Army of Northern Virginia to Grant. Now that is not the actual end of the Civil War, but it's kind of the end for all intents and purposes because Lee is the General-in-Chief of the Confederate Armies. Grant is likewise for the United States. And after this point, it's just gonna be kind of a matter of time until all the rest of the Confederate armies surrender. So there's great celebration in Washington, D.C., everyone is very happy, finally this four year long war, where 620,000 Americans have died, is over, and Abraham Lincoln goes and gives a speech, talking about what Reconstruction is going to be like. And in this speech, he lays out that African Americans, after the Civil War, are going to have citizenship, at least some of them, and the right to vote, which is in keeping with everything that he's really said since the Emancipation Proclamation. But what he does not know, is that this man, John Wilkes Booth, is in the crowd that day, listening to him, and when he hears Lincoln say that African Americans are gonna have citizenship, they're gonna have the right to vote, he vows to kill Lincoln. John Wilkes Booth is really interesting character, we only know so much about him. He himself was a famous actor, in fact, Lincoln had seen him perform a number of times, and liked him, even invited him to the White House, cause he thought he was a great actor, but Booth refused to go and see Lincoln. And he was from a family of famous actors, I think kind of a modern-day equivalent might be the Sheen family. Booth had a famous brother who was also an actor, and a famous father who was also an actor, just like Martin Sheen's sons are Emilio Estevez and Charlie Sheen today. So this would be like, if Emilio Estevez or Charlie Sheen suddenly decided to murder the President, which would be a pretty incredibly big deal, just as it was then. Booth was a Confederate sympathizer, and almost certainly a Confederate spy who had gone up to Canada at some time to plot some movement on behalf of the Confederacy. He was an outright racist, I think the part where Lincoln said African Americans would have citizenship was what pushed him over the edge into assassinating Lincoln. Originally he had actually planned to kidnap Lincoln, and ransom him for the end of the Civil War, but after Lee surrenders, Booth's plan changes. He wants to basically decapitate the government, so he conspires with a couple of other people, and they plan that they're going to kill all the highest people in government at once. So they're going to kill Lincoln, they're going to kill General Grant, they're going to kill William Seward, the secretary of state, and they're going to kill Andrew Johnson, the Vice-President. And Booth thinks that perhaps, in this moment of panic that follows the decapitation of the entire United States government, that perhaps something positive for the south with happen. Remember, they had hoped that getting rid of Lincoln in the election of 1864 might result in putting a government more favorable to the south in office to the north, which didn't happen, so perhaps Booth wants to do the same thing this time. So Booth reads in the newspaper that Abraham Lincoln is going to be attending a play at Ford's Theater that evening. And Booth is a regular at Ford's Theater, in fact, he even has his mail delivered there, so it's kind of his home away from home. And when Booth goes to the theater with the intent to kill Lincoln, he pretty much just goes up to Lincoln's box, and everyone knows who he is, and they say hi John, and he just walks on by, walks right into Lincoln's box, shuts the door behind him, and shoots Lincoln through the back of the head. At that point, he jumped on the stage from the booth, which is maybe 14 feet above the stage. If you've never been to Ford's Theater and you have an opportunity, I highly recommend you go, it's a really interesting museum and historical place, and in the process, he actually breaks his ankle, so in his running away he's dealing with this broken ankle and eventually he is captured, and refuses to be taken alive, so he is killed. And later the rest of the conspirators are hanged for their participation in this plot. There's some confusion over what Booth said when he jumped out of the box. A lot of people say that he yelled sic semper tyrannis, which means, thus always to tyrants, and is also the motto of the state of Virginia. Other people heard him say things like I've done it, or revenge for the south, but sic semper tyrannis is kind of the famous phrase that has come out of this. So Booth is calling Lincoln a tyrant, and tyrants are eventually always assassinated. The rest of the assassination plot from that evening mostly failed. One of the conspirators, Lewis Powell, did manage to get in to William Seward's house and stab him, he did not succeed in killing him, but he did wound Seward very badly. The rest of the assassination plots did not come to fruition whatsoever. One thing you'll notice is that only a few parts of the Confederate Army have actually surrendered at the time of Lincoln's assassination. So the war is, in some cases, still ongoing, particularly in North Carolina, in Raleigh and Durham, where Sherman's forces have come up through South Carolina and North Carolina to meet the forces of Confederate General Joe Johnston. And it's on April the 26th that Joe Johnston surrenders to William Tecumseh Sherman. From that point forward, there are a few dribs and drabs of other armies that are still surrendering. Interesting fact, the last Confederate unit to surrender actually surrendered in November of 1865, in Liverpool, England, this was a Confederate ship that had been sailing around, and when they finally came into port, they officially surrendered. Now after Lincoln's assassination, which was an incredible shock to the United States, remember that no President had ever been assassinated before, the power is then transferred to Andrew Johnson, Lincoln's Vice-President. And Johnson's Presidency is going to end up being very problematic for a number of reasons, the most important of which being that he's very sympathetic to the south. With Johnson in power as President, he's going to have a considerable amount of conflict with the American Congress, which is dominated by radical Republicans who think that Lincoln himself was not nearly punitive enough toward the south. There's going to be just an incredible battle of wills between Congress and Johnson that's going to end with Johnson being the first American President to be impeached. And so thus endeth the Civil War of the United States, with the north victorious. The southern states come back into the Union. The rebellion in the south is defeated, slavery has ended, and the era of states rights is over. In the next video I'd like to talk, just for a few moments, about the big takeaways about the American Civil War. What is is that makes it so important? And what were the lasting effects? I'll get to that in the next video.