7 things everyone needs to know about the Civil War

May 3, 2017

We all learn about the Civil War in history class, of course. For those of us who grew up in the South, Confederate cemeteries and monuments, among other things, are constant reminders that it didn’t happen all that long ago. When New Orleans began removing its Confederate statues recently, it caused a stir.

Library of Congress / digital version by Science Faction/Getty Images

We all learn about the Civil War in history class, of course. For those of us who grew up in the South, Confederate cemeteries and monuments, among other things, are constant reminders that it didn’t happen all that long ago. When New Orleans began removing its Confederate statues recently, it caused a stir.

Even in other parts of the country, Civil War re-enactors make sure Americans don’t forget the war that caused President Lincoln to write the famous Gettysburg Address. And Civil War movies? There are so many to choose from (most of them all kinds of problematic) that we don’t know where to begin. But not all of us paid attention in history class, so in case you need a refresher, here are some things you need to know about America’s Civil War:

1South Carolina was the first state to secede from the Union.

In Charleston, South Carolina, first state to secede.

Posted by The Last Will of Lucy Sutton on Saturday, October 22, 2016

Abraham Lincoln promised to end slavery if elected president, and South Carolina lawmakers warned that their state would secede if he won. He did win, and they did secede on December 20th, 1860. They were followed by Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi, and Texas. Arkansas, North Carolina, Tennessee, and Virginia seceded after the Battle of Fort Sumter (which occurred on April 12th, 1861).

2The Civil War didn’t end with the surrender of Gen. Robert E. Lee at Appomattox.

Gen. Lee’s surrender at Appomattox Court House on April 9th, 1865 is often considered the end of the Civil War (especially in high school history class), but battles were still being fought — like the Battle of Palmito Ranch in Texas. The final surrender of the war happened in Liverpool, England with the docking of the CSS Shenandoah on November 6th, 1865. Even then, skirmishes continued, especially in Texas. It wasn’t until August 20th, 1866 that President Andrew Johnson signed the proclamation announcing the end of the Civil War.

3The last Confederate general to surrender was Cherokee Gen. Stand Watie.

General Watie surrendered on June 23rd, 1865, a little more than a month after the last official battle of the war. In the 1830s, decades before the Civil War, the tribes of the Southeastern states had been forced to Indian Territory (now Oklahoma) by order of President Andrew Jackson. (The Supreme Court ruled against this removal, but Jackson overrode them.)

At the time of the Civil War, Watie was in exile from his tribe, having signed the Treaty of New Echota that surrendered Cherokee lands. A slave-owner, Watie formed the first Cherokee regiment of the Confederate Army (which eventually included members of other tribes as well) and helped secure control of Indian Territory.

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