M54-APRIL 1865

This was the most decisive month of the war. Ulysses S. Grant and William T. Sherman pushed Robert E. Lee and Joseph E. Johnston toward surrender. Smaller Federal operations continued against Mobile and northern Alabama. The Confederates desperately recruited blacks into the Confederate armies. The Lincoln administration focused on reconstructing the Union, and an assassination horrified both North and South.

Lee Surrenders to Grant | Image Credit: Flickr.com

The Battle of Five Forks

1 Apr – Federals routed an isolated Confederate force southwest of Petersburg. This began the campaign to end the war in Virginia.

The Fall of Selma

2 Apr – Federal cavalry led by James H. Wilson captured the important manufacturing city of Selma, Alabama.

The Fall of Petersburg

2 Apr – Federal troops finally broke the Confederate defenses and conquered Petersburg, Virginia, after nine grueling months of siege warfare.

The Fall of Richmond

2 Apr – As Federal forces entered Petersburg, the fall of the Confederate capital was imminent.

The Fall of Richmond: Part Two

3 Apr – Federal troops entered the Confederate capital, having captured Richmond after four long, hard years of brutal warfare.

From J. Webster Stebbins, 9th Vermont

3 Apr – Letter from 1st Sgt. J. Webster Stebbins of Company I, 9th Vermont Volunteer Infantry, to his mother after his regiment became one of the first to enter Richmond.

The Fall of Petersburg: Part Two

3 Apr – As Federal troops continued pouring into Petersburg, Ulysses S. Grant made plans to capture Robert E. Lee’s Confederate army.

The Amelia Campaign

4 Apr – As Federals captured Petersburg and Richmond, Robert E. Lee’s Confederate Army of Northern Virginia escaped across the Appomattox River. The Confederate lines had finally broken after nearly 10 months of trench warfare, but Lee’s forces were not yet conquered.

Lincoln Visits Richmond

4 Apr – Abraham Lincoln visited the former Confederate capital of Richmond the day after its fall.

Reconstruction in Virginia

5 Apr – While visiting Richmond, Abraham Lincoln quickly set about working to restore Virginia to the Union.

The Amelia Campaign: Part Two

5 Apr – General Robert E. Lee’s Confederate Army of Northern Virginia reached Amelia Court House, but Federal forces closing in on them meant they had no time for rest.

The Battle of Sayler’s Creek

6 Apr – Robert E. Lee’s Confederate Army of Northern Virginia sustained its worst defeat of the war while trying to elude Federal pursuers west of Richmond.

The Appomattox Campaign

7 Apr – After suffering his worst defeat, Robert E. Lee embarked on the final campaign of his military career.

The Appomattox Campaign: Part Two

8 Apr – Robert E. Lee’s Confederate Army of Northern Virginia continued its grueling westward march while Ulysses S. Grant continued pressing for its surrender.

Lee Agrees to Discuss Surrender

9 Apr – Robert E. Lee was compelled to ask Ulysses S. Grant for a meeting to discuss surrendering the Confederate Army of Northern Virginia.

From John Lightner, 200th Pennsylvania

9 Apr – Letter from Private John Lightner of the 200th Pennsylvania Volunteer Infantry to his mother on the day of Robert E. Lee’s surrender.

Lee Surrenders to Grant

9 Apr – General Ulysses S. Grant received the surrender of Robert E. Lee and the last of his Army of Northern Virginia.

The Army of Northern Virginia Surrenders

10 Apr – Robert E. Lee issued a farewell to his Army of Northern Virginia as both sides prepared for a formal surrender ceremony.

The Flight of Jefferson Davis

10 Apr – Jefferson Davis and the Confederate government-in-exile left Danville, Virginia, for Greensboro, North Carolina, upon learning of Robert E. Lee’s surrender.

Lincoln’s Last Speech

11 Apr – Abraham Lincoln delivered a serious speech about restoring the Union that dampened the joyous celebrations over Robert E. Lee’s surrender.

The Fall of Mobile

12 Apr – Eight months after the Federal navy sealed off Mobile Bay, Federal troops finally captured the city itself.

Reconstruction in Virginia: Part Two

12 Apr – Abraham Lincoln rescinded his plan to restore Virginia to the Union after facing heated opposition from his cabinet.

Jefferson Davis Vows to Fight On

13 Apr – Despite the recent Confederate disasters, Jefferson Davis was determined to continue the fight.

Lincoln’s Busy Good Friday

14 Apr – Abraham Lincoln held a cabinet meeting and tended to administrative issues before ending the day with a trip to Ford’s Theatre.

The Lincoln Assassination

14 Apr – Abraham Lincoln was shot in the head while attending a play at Ford’s Theatre in Washington.

More Assassination Attempts, Washington in Turmoil

14 Apr – As Abraham Lincoln was shot, both Vice President Andrew Johnson and Secretary of State William H. Seward were targeted for assassination as well.

The Nation Reacts to Lincoln’s Death

15 Apr – Northerners mourned the loss of Abraham Lincoln while rumors quickly spread that the assassination attempts had been plotted by a desperate Confederate government.

The Inauguration of Andrew Johnson

15 Apr – Abraham Lincoln’s death meant that a southern Democrat would become the next U.S. president, much to the dismay of northerners hoping to punish the South.

Action Winds Down in North Carolina

16 Apr – Confederate General Joseph E. Johnston received a message from Federal Major General William T. Sherman that had the potential to end most hostilities east of the Mississippi River.

From William Hamblin, 4th Massachusetts

16 Apr – Letter from Private William Hamblin, Company K, 4th Massachusetts Heavy Artillery to his wife.

The Hunt for John Wilkes Booth

17 Apr – Federal authorities made several arrests in the supposed conspiracy to kill Abraham Lincoln and members of his administration. But John Wilkes Booth himself remained at large.

Sherman and Johnston Meet for the First Time

17 Apr – Longtime rivals Joseph E. Johnston and William T. Sherman met face-to-face for the first time as they discussed the surrender of Johnston’s Confederate army.

Johnston Surrenders to Sherman

18 Apr – Both Joseph E. Johnston and William T. Sherman exceeded their authority by agreeing in principle to a peace between not only their own armies but all other armies still in the field.

The Lincoln Funeral

19 Apr – Funeral services for Abraham Lincoln took place at the White House.

The Booth Manhunt: Accomplices Arrested

20 Apr – Federals arrested George Atzerodt for his connection to the plot to kill Abraham Lincoln and members of his administration. Meanwhile, John Wilkes Booth waited to cross the Potomac River to sanctuary in Virginia.

Washington Rejects the Sherman-Johnston Convention

21 Apr – The peace agreement between William T. Sherman and Joseph E. Johnston arrived in Washington, and it quickly became apparent that administration officials would not endorse such a magnanimous document.

The Confederate Government in Exile

22 Apr – Jefferson Davis held a cabinet meeting in Charlotte and weighed the Confederacy’s rapidly dwindling options.

Grant Visits Sherman in North Carolina

24 Apr – Lieutenant General Ulysses S. Grant arrived at the headquarters of Major General William T. Sherman to inform him that the peace agreement he reached with Confederate General Joseph E. Johnston had been rejected by Washington.

Johnston Surrenders to Sherman a Second Time

26 Apr – General Joseph E. Johnston considered dispersing his Confederate army and waging guerrilla warfare, but he ultimately decided to surrender just as Robert E. Lee had done at Appomattox.

The Hunt for John Wilkes Booth Ends

26 Apr – Federal authorities finally tracked down John Wilkes Booth and his accomplice on a farm in Virginia.

The Sultana Tragedy

27 Apr – The steamboat Sultana exploded and sank on the Mississippi River. As many as 1,800 recently released Federal prisoners of war were killed in the worst maritime disaster in American history.

The Hunt for John Wilkes Booth: Aftermath

27 Apr – Federal officials brought the body of John Wilkes Booth back to Washington as the alleged accomplices to his scheme were rounded up and jailed.

Jefferson Davis Reaches South Carolina

29 Apr – President Jefferson Davis and his Confederate government-in-exile reached South Carolina, but Federal patrols were closing in on them.


Last Updated: 4/30/2020