After the Civil War: Post War Lives of Some Confederate Figures

After the Civil War ended in the spring of 1865, those who survived the ordeal went home to resume normal lives. Many went back to being farmers, blacksmiths, businessmen, and so on in their hometowns; some ran for political office, while others headed west in search of fresh starts, sometimes because former homes and farms had been destroyed during the war as was the case for many in the south. Here’s a brief look at the postwar lives of some Confederates; I’ll follow this up with a post about the postwar lives of some Union participants.

After being captured in Georgia on May 10th, 1865, Jefferson Davis, the first and only president of the Confederate States of America, was imprisoned at Fort Monroe, Virginia. He was to be tried for treason, but never was; he was released on bond in 1867. Davis never was granted nor did he request an official pardon from the U.S. government. He eventually settled near Biloxi, Mississippi, and wrote his memoir called The Rise and Fall of the Confederate Government. Jefferson Davis died in New Orleans on December 6th, 1889.

General Robert E. Lee could not return to his prewar home at Arlington, Virginia. During the war, when Federal authorities were looking for suitable sites for cemeteries for Union soldiers, Lee’s estate was selected as a site for what became Arlington National Cemetery. Lee accepted the presidency of Washington College in Lexington, Virginia, and held that position until his death in 1870. Washington College was renamed Washington and Lee University in his honor.

Post War Image of Robert E. Lee and Joseph E. Johnston

Post War Image of Robert E. Lee and Joseph E. Johnston

General Joseph E. Johnston surrendered his army to William T. Sherman in North Carolina. Pleased with Sherman’s fair treatment of his men, Johnston and the Union general became post war close friends. Johnston was president of a short line railroad in Alabama and Georgia , sold insurance, and wrote his memoirs; he later relocated to Richmond, Virginia and served one term in the U.S. House of Representatives. While attending Sherman’s funeral in New York City on a cold rainy day in February 1891, Johnston caught a cold which developed into pneumonia. He died a month later in Washington DC.

Colonel John S. Mosby disbanded his Partisan Rangers rather than surrender formally. With a reward offered for his capture, Mosby was in hiding when Grant himself intervened and granted the Colonel a parole. Like Longstreet, Mosby was vilified by some for becoming a Republican and a strong supporter of Grant’s presidency. Mosby practiced law in both Virginia and San Francisco, served as American Counsel to Hong Kong, and served in various Federal Government positions. John S. Mosby died in Washington DC in 1916.

General Pierre Beauregard was in command in Charleston for the opening shots on Fort Sumter, and served in various locations until the end of the war. The Louisiana native returned to New Orleans after the war, and was a railroad executive, adjutant general of the Louisiana state militia, and commissioner of public works in his home city. Beauregard died in New Orleans in 1893.

General James Longstreet surrendered with Lee at Appomattox Court House. Longstreet moved to New Orleans, and earned the disdain of many in the south for urging support for the Republican party and for criticizing Lee’s leadership. He held several political appointments under presidents Ulysses S. Grant, William McKinley, and Theodore Roosevelt. He defended himself in his memoir From Manassas to Appomattox, and enjoyed the support of ex Confederate soldiers in the rank and file at reunions even if some former higher ups in the army vilified him. Longstreet died in Gainesville, Georgia in !904.

James Longstreet Post War Image

James Longstreet Post War Image

While some former Confederate officers left the past behind and adapted well in the reunited nation, Jubal Early did not. The former general was relieved of command following his March 1865 defeat at Waynesboro, Virginia, and with the end of the war in that state in sight, Early made his way to Texas, and then to Mexico before settling in Toronto, Canada. After being pardoned by President Andrew Johnson, Early moved to Lynchburg, Virginia and practiced law. He was the first president of the Southern Historical Society and a leading proponent of the Lost Cause movement, as well as the leading critic of James Longstreet. Early remained unreconstructed until the end, which for him was in March of 1894 in Lynchburg.

General Edmund Kirby Smith fought at First Bull Run and in Kentucky before being named commander of the Trans Mississippi Department in January 1863. His was the last department to surrender, with Smith signing the surrender on documents on June 2nd, 1865. Smith briefly left the country but returned later in the year. He served as president of a telegraph company and taught at various colleges, before accepting a post as mathematics professor at the University of the South in Sewanee, Tennessee in 1875. He continued to teach there until his in 1893.

General John Bell Hood lost the use of an arm from wounds suffered at Gettysburg and lost a leg at Chickamauga, yet continued to fight on until his army was nearly destroyed at the battles of Franklin and Nashville in late 1864. After the war, Hood moved to New Orleans, where he went into the insurance and cotton businesses, and, like many others, wrote his memoirs. Hood also married and had eleven children, including three sets of twins. He died in New Orleans of yellow fever in August of 1879. The disease also claimed his wife and one child. His remaining children were adapted by families in five different states.

General George E. Pickett is most famous for his division’s assault on Cemetery Ridge on the third day of the Battle of Gettysburg, but he saw action in several other fights in Virginia and North Carolina. After the war, Pickett fled to Canada for a year before returning home and settling in Norfolk, Virginia, where he went into the insurance business. He was granted a full pardon by the U.S. government in 1874, and died the following year in Norfolk.


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