Book Review: Ends of War: The Unfinished Fight of Lee’s Army after Appomattox

Caroline Janney is a rising star in the literature of Confederate war-memory. At UVA she wrote her dissertation, “The Ladies Memorial Associations of Virginia” under Gary Gallagher. She drew from it for an essay in Peter Wallenstein and Bertram Wyatt-Brown, eds., Virginia’s Civil War (2005). Her work led to Burying the Dead But Not the Past: Ladies’ Memorial Associations and the Lost Cause (Chapel Hill, 2008). 

Her latest book is Ends of War: The Unfinished Fight of Lee’s Army after Appomattox. In it she points out something you probably didn’t know: “at least 20,000 of Lee’s men dropped out of the ranks after April 1…or otherwise refused to surrender themselves.” 

They had good reason. After Cornwallis’ surrender at Yorktown, as Dr. Janney relates, 6,000 British soldiers were imprisoned for nineteen months. Congress voted to sell German prisoners into indentured servitude.

General Grant, of course, simply wanted a quick end to the war, and granting charitable parole terms was one way to do it. General Lee wanted the same, counseling against guerrilla warfare by die-hard Southerners.

Somewhere around 26,000-28,000 Confederate officers and men were surrendered at Appomattox, but precise numbers vary. The author uses the figure 28,231, but I don’t see how she gets it. Chris Calkins comes up with 27,647, again without noting sources. The entire Volume 15 of the Southern Historical Society Papers (1887) lists nearly 500 pages of officers’ and men’s names who were paroled at Appomattox; I counted 26,699 at all. (Dr. Janney doesn’t cite this source.) 

The larger point, effectively made by the author, is that an almost equal number simply walked away and headed home. Many refused to give up in hopes that the Confederacy might somehow survive, or that the war could be maintained by Joe Johnston or others.  Besides, surrendering meant a loss of honor, and many Southern men refused taking such a step.

On the other hand, carrying a printed parole slip afforded a bit of security for ex-Rebels streaming out through the land in the uncertain days after Appomattox. Moreover, a parole was proof that its bearer had stayed with Marse Robert to the end. Finally, for hungry Johnny Rebs, proffering a parole at a U.S. post helped with getting handouts.

Note the title: ends of war. Appomattox was the main paroling site, but there were others. At Burkeville, the U.S. provost marshal recorded some 1,600 names during April 14-17. Confederate cavalrymen who had slipped away before the surrender also took their time getting paroled. 

One of the author’s salient points is how messy the whole process was. There was no formal dissolution of the Confederate government. Throughout the South, Union and Confederate generals worked out their own paroling procedures. And, as noted, we still aren’t sure just how many Rebels got their formal papers. Janney counts 15,744 men paroled between Appomattox and the end of June.

In her Epilogue, Dr. Janney observes that the generous terms granted in Northern paroles allowed many ex-Confederates to come home if not victorious, at least unconquered in spirit. The seeds of the Lost Cause had been sown in Wilmer McLean’s parlor.

Ends of War: The Unfinished Fight of Lee’s Army after Appomattox

By Caroline E. Janney

University of North Carolina Press  331 pp.  $30 hardcover

Reviewed by Stephen Davis

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4 Responses to Book Review: Ends of War: The Unfinished Fight of Lee’s Army after Appomattox

  1. John Pryor says:

    The reviewer might have noted that the generous terms offered also facilitated the subsequent Confederate surrenders, which might have otherwise been attended with significantly more violence or fractionalized into ongoing guerilla warfare. Lost War iconography tried to avoid even discussing the actual act of surrendering.

  2. William T Anderson says:

    Excellent book and well-worth reading as it, in many ways, closes the chapter on Appomattox. I found particularly interesting the ample military stores found in Lynchburg….shoes, uniforms, and weapons. So much for the blockade. It was internal transportation, or lack thereof, that doomed the CSA.

  3. Katy Berman says:

    Interesting and shocking about the Revolutionary War.

    • Taylor says:

      Loyalists were not treated well either. They were about one-third of the population of the American colonies at the time.

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