Slavery abolished in America with adoption of 13th amendment


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Original:
Year
1865
Month Day
December 18

Following its ratification by the requisite three-quarters of the states earlier in the month, the 13th Amendment is formally adopted into the U.S. Constitution, ensuring that “neither slavery nor involuntary servitude… shall exist within the United States, or any place subject to their jurisdiction.”

Before the American Civil War, Abraham Lincoln and other leaders of the anti-slavery Republican Party sought not to abolish slavery but merely to stop its extension into new territories and states in the American West. This policy was unacceptable to most Southern politicians, who believed that the growth of free states would turn the U.S. power structure irrevocably against them. In November 1860, Lincoln’s election as president signaled the secession of seven Southern states and the formation of the Confederate States of America. Shortly after his inauguration in 1861, the Civil War began. Four more Southern states joined the Confederacy, while four border slave states in the upper South remained in the Union.

Lincoln, though he privately detested slavery, responded cautiously to the call by abolitionists for emancipation of all American slaves after the outbreak of the Civil War. As the war dragged on, however, the Republican-dominated federal government began to realize the strategic advantages of emancipation: The liberation of slaves would weaken the Confederacy by depriving it of a major portion of its labor force, which would in turn strengthen the Union by producing an influx of manpower. With 11 Southern states seceded from the Union, there were few pro-slavery congressmen to stand in the way of such an action.

In 1862, Congress annulled the fugitive slave laws, prohibited slavery in the U.S. territories, and authorized Lincoln to employ freed slaves in the army. Following the major Union victory at the Battle of Antietam in September, Lincoln issued a warning of his intent to issue an emancipation proclamation for all states still in rebellion on New Year’s Day.

That day–January 1, 1863–President Lincoln formally issued the Emancipation Proclamation, calling on the Union army to liberate all slaves in states still in rebellion as “an act of justice, warranted by the Constitution, upon military necessity.” These three million slaves were declared to be “then, thenceforward, and forever free.” The proclamation exempted the border slave states that remained in the Union and all or parts of three Confederate states controlled by the Union army.

The Emancipation Proclamation transformed the Civil War from a war against secession into a war for “a new birth of freedom,” as Lincoln stated in his Gettysburg Address in 1863. This ideological change discouraged the intervention of France or England on the Confederacy’s behalf and enabled the Union to enlist the 180,000 African American soldiers and sailors who volunteered to fight between January 1, 1863, and the conclusion of the war.

As the Confederacy staggered toward defeat, Lincoln realized that the Emancipation Proclamation, a war measure, might have little constitutional authority once the war was over. The Republican Party subsequently introduced the 13th Amendment into Congress, and in April 1864 the necessary two-thirds of the overwhelmingly Republican Senate passed the amendment. However, the House of Representatives, featuring a higher proportion of Democrats, did not pass the amendment by a two-thirds majority until January 1865, three months before Confederate General Robert E. Lee’s surrender at Appomattox.

On December 2, 1865, Alabama became the 27th state to ratify the 13th Amendment, thus giving it the requisite three-fourths majority of states’ approval necessary to make it the law of the land. Alabama, a former Confederate state, was forced to ratify the amendment as a condition for re-admission into the Union. On December 18, the 13th Amendment was officially adopted into the Constitution–246 years after the first shipload of captive Africans landed at Jamestown, Virginia, and were bought as slaves.

Slavery’s legacy and efforts to overcome it remain a central issue in U.S. politics, particularly during the post-Civil War Reconstruction era and the African American civil rights movement of the 1950s and ’60s.

READ MORE: Black History Milestones

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Confederate President Jefferson Davis captured by Union forces

Year
1865
Month Day
May 10

Jefferson Davis, president of the fallen Confederate government, is captured with his wife and entourage near Irwinville, Georgia, by a detachment of Union General James H. Wilson’s cavalry.

On April 2, 1865, with the Confederate defeat at Petersburg, Virginia imminent, General Robert E. Lee informed President Davis that he could no longer protect Richmond and advised the Confederate government to evacuate its capital. Davis and his cabinet fled to Danville, Virginia, and with Robert E. Lee’s surrender on April 9, deep into the South. Lee’s surrender of his massive Army of Northern Virginia effectively ended the Civil War, and during the next few weeks the remaining Confederate armies surrendered one by one. Davis was devastated by the fall of the Confederacy. Refusing to admit defeat, he hoped to flee to a sympathetic foreign nation such as Britain or France, and was weighing the merits of forming a government in exile when he was arrested by a detachment of the 4th Michigan Cavalry.

A certain amount of controversy surrounds his capture, as Davis was wearing his wife’s black shawl when the Union troops cornered him. The Northern press ridiculed him as a coward, alleging that he had disguised himself as a woman in an ill-fated attempt to escape. However, Davis, and especially his wife, Varina, maintained that he was ill and that Varina had lent him her shawl to keep his health up during their difficult journey.

Imprisoned for two years at Fort Monroe, Virginia, Davis was indicted for treason, but was never tried–the federal government feared that Davis would be able prove to a jury that the Southern secession of 1860 to 1861 was legal. Varina worked determinedly to secure his freedom, and in May 1867 Jefferson Davis was released on bail, with several wealthy Northerners helping him pay for his freedom.

After a number of unsuccessful business ventures, he retired to Beauvoir, his home near Biloxi, Mississippi, and began writing his two-volume memoir The Rise and Fall of the Confederate Government (1881). He died in December 1889.

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KKK founded


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Original:
Year
1865
Month Day
December 24

In Pulaski, Tennessee, a group of Confederate veterans convenes to form a secret society that they christen the “Ku Klux Klan.” The KKK rapidly grew from a secret social fraternity to a paramilitary force bent on reversing the federal government’s progressive Reconstruction Era-activities in the South, especially policies that elevated the rights of the local African American population.

The name of the Ku Klux Klan was derived from the Greek word kyklos, meaning “circle,” and the Scottish-Gaelic word “clan,” which was probably chosen for the sake of alliteration. Under a platform of philosophized white racial superiority, the group employed violence as a means of pushing back Reconstruction and its enfranchisement of African Americans. Former Confederate General Nathan Bedford Forrest was the KKK’s first grand wizard; in 1869, he unsuccessfully tried to disband it after he grew critical of the Klan’s excessive violence.

Most prominent in counties where the races were relatively balanced, the KKK engaged in terrorist raids against African Americans and white Republicans at night, employing intimidation, destruction of property, assault, and murder to achieve its aims and influence upcoming elections. In a few Southern states, Republicans organized militia units to break up the Klan. In 1871, the Ku Klux Act passed Congress, authorizing President Ulysses S. Grant to use military force to suppress the KKK. The Ku Klux Act resulted in nine South Carolina counties being placed under martial law and thousands of arrests. In 1882, the U.S. Supreme Court declared the Ku Klux Act unconstitutional, but by that time Reconstruction had ended and the KKK had faded away.

The 20th century witnessed two revivals of the KKK: one in response to immigration in the 1910s and ’20s, and another in response to the African American civil rights movement of the 1950s and ’60s. Various chapters of the KKK still exist in the 21st century. White supremacist violence, in general, is again on the rise in America. Several high profile events, including the 2015 Charleston church shooting; the 2017 “Unite the Right” rally in Charlottesville, Virginia; the 2018 Pittsburgh synagogue shooting; and the 2019 shooting in an El Paso, Texas Walmart were all fueled by white supremacy and racism. 

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President Lincoln dies

Year
1865
Month Day
April 15

At 7:22 a.m., Abraham Lincoln, the 16th president of the United States, dies from a bullet wound inflicted the night before by John Wilkes Booth, an actor and Confederate sympathizer. The president’s death came only six days after Confederate General Robert E. Lee surrendered his massive army at Appomattox Court House, effectively ending the American Civil War.

Booth, who remained in the North during the war despite his Confederate sympathies, initially plotted to capture President Lincoln and take him to Richmond, the Confederate capital. However, on March 20, 1865, the day of the planned kidnapping, the president failed to appear at the spot where Booth and his six fellow conspirators lay in wait. Two weeks later, Richmond fell to Union forces. In April, with Confederate armies near collapse across the South, Booth hatched a desperate plan to save the Confederacy.

READ MORE: The Lincoln Assassination 

Learning that Lincoln was to attend Laura Keene’s acclaimed performance in Our American Cousin at Ford’s Theater on April 14, Booth plotted the simultaneous assassination of Lincoln, Vice President Andrew Johnson, and Secretary of State William H. Seward. By murdering the president and two of his possible successors, Booth and his conspirators hoped to throw the U.S. government into a paralyzing disarray.

On the evening of April 14, conspirator Lewis T. Powell burst into Secretary of State Seward’s home, seriously wounding him and three others, while George A. Atzerodt, assigned to Vice President Johnson, lost his nerve and fled. Meanwhile, just after 10 p.m., Booth entered Lincoln’s private box unnoticed and shot the president with a single bullet in the back of his head. Slashing an army officer who rushed at him, Booth jumped to the stage and shouted “Sic semper tyrannis! [Thus always to tyrants]–the South is avenged!” Although Booth had broken his left leg jumping from Lincoln’s box, he succeeded in escaping Washington.

READ MORE: 10 Things You May Not Know About the Lincoln Assassination

The president, mortally wounded, was carried to a cheap lodging house opposite Ford’s Theater. An hour after dawn the next morning, Abraham Lincoln died, becoming the first president to be assassinated. His body was taken to the White House, where it lay until April 18, at which point it was carried to the Capitol rotunda to lay in state on a catafalque. On April 21, Lincoln’s body was taken to the railroad station and boarded on a train that conveyed it to Springfield, Illinois, his home before becoming president. Tens of thousands of Americans lined the train’s railroad route and paid their respects to their fallen leader during the train’s solemn progression through the North. Lincoln was buried on May 4, 1865, at Oak Ridge Cemetery, near Springfield.

Booth, pursued by the army and secret service forces, was finally cornered in a barn near Bowling Green, Virginia, and died from a possibly self-inflicted bullet wound as the barn was burned to the ground. Of the eight other persons eventually charged with the conspiracy, four were hanged and four were jailed.

READ MORE: How Presidential Assassinations Changed U.S. Politics

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Robert E. Lee surrenders

Year
1865
Month Day
April 09

In Appomattox Court House, Virginia, Confederate General Robert E. Lee surrenders his 28,000 troops to Union General Ulysses S. Grant, effectively ending the American Civil War. Forced to abandon the Confederate capital of Richmond, blocked from joining the surviving Confederate force in North Carolina, and harassed constantly by Union cavalry, Lee had no other option.

In retreating from the Union army’s Appomattox Campaign, the Army of Northern Virginia had stumbled through the Virginia countryside stripped of food and supplies. At one point, Union cavalry forces under General Philip Sheridan had actually outrun Lee’s army, blocking their retreat and taking 6,000 prisoners at Sayler’s Creek. Desertions were mounting daily, and by April 8 the Confederates were surrounded with no possibility of escape. On April 9, Lee sent a message to Grant announcing his willingness to surrender. The two generals met in the parlor of the Wilmer McLean home at one o’clock in the afternoon.

READ MORE: Why the Civil War Actually Ended 16 Months After Lee Surrendered

Lee and Grant, both holding the highest rank in their respective armies, had known each other slightly during the Mexican War and exchanged awkward personal inquiries. Characteristically, Grant arrived in his muddy field uniform while Lee had turned out in full dress attire, complete with sash and sword. Lee asked for the terms, and Grant hurriedly wrote them out. All officers and men were to be pardoned, and they would be sent home with their private property–most important, the horses, which could be used for a late spring planting. Officers would keep their side arms, and Lee’s starving men would be given Union rations.

Shushing a band that had begun to play in celebration, General Grant told his officers, “The war is over. The Rebels are our countrymen again.” Although scattered resistance continued for several weeks, for all practical purposes the Civil War had come to an end.

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Abraham Lincoln’s funeral train leaves D.C.

Year
1865
Month Day
April 21

On April 21, 1865, a train carrying the coffin of assassinated President Abraham Lincoln leaves Washington, D.C. on its way to Springfield, Illinois, where he would be buried on May 4.

The train carrying Lincoln’s body traveled through 180 cities and seven states on its way to Lincoln’s home state of Illinois. Scheduled stops for the special funeral train were published in newspapers. At each stop, Lincoln’s coffin was taken off the train, placed on an elaborately decorated horse-drawn hearse and led by solemn processions to a public building for viewing. In cities as large as Columbus, Ohio, and as small as Herkimer, New York, thousands of mourners flocked to pay tribute to the slain president. In Philadelphia, Lincoln’s body lay in state on in the east wing of Independence Hall, the same site where the Declaration of Independence was signed. Newspapers reported that people had to wait more than five hours to pass by the president’s coffin in some cities.

Lincoln’s funeral train was dubbed The Lincoln Special. (His portrait was fastened to the front of the engine above the cattle guard.) Approximately 300 people accompanied Lincoln’s body on the 1,654-mile journey, including his eldest son Robert. Also on the train was a coffin containing the body of Lincoln’s son Willie, who had died in 1862 at the age of 11 of typhoid fever during Lincoln’s second year in office. Willie’s body had been disinterred from a plot in Washington, D.C. after Lincoln’s death so he could be buried alongside his father at the family plot in Springfield.

In 1911, a prairie fire near Minneapolis, Minnesota, destroyed the train car that had so famously carried Lincoln’s body to its final resting place.

READ MORE: How Presidential Assassinations Changed U.S. Politics

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President Lincoln is buried in Springfield, Illinois

Year
1865
Month Day
May 04

On May 4, 1865, Abraham Lincoln is laid to rest in his hometown of Springfield, Illinois.

His funeral train had traveled through 180 cities and seven states before reaching Springfield. At each stop, mourners paid their respects to Lincoln, who had been assassinated on April 14. Lincoln’s son Willie, who died at age 11 from typhoid fever in 1862 and had originally been buried in Washington, D.C. while Lincoln was serving as president, was interred next to his father in the family plot that same day.

READ MORE: 10 Things You May Not Know About Abraham Lincoln

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President Lincoln dreams about his assassination

Year
1865
Month Day
April 04

According to the recollection of one of his friends, Ward Hill Lamon, President Abraham Lincoln dreams on this night in 1865 of “the subdued sobs of mourners” and a corpse lying on a catafalque in the White House East Room. In the dream, Lincoln asked a soldier standing guard “Who is dead in the White House?” to which the soldier replied, “the President. He was killed by an assassin.” Lincoln woke up at that point. On April 11, he told Lamon that the dream had “strangely annoyed” him ever since. Ten days after having the dream, Lincoln was shot dead by an assassin while attending the theater.

READ MORE: Does the Ghost of Lincoln Haunt the White House?

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John Wilkes Booth shoots Abraham Lincoln

Year
1865
Month Day
April 14

President Abraham Lincoln is shot in the head at Ford’s Theatre in Washington, D.C. The assassin, actor John Wilkes Booth, shouted, “Sic semper tyrannis! (Ever thus to tyrants!) The South is avenged,” as he jumped onto the stage and fled on horseback. Lincoln died the next morning.

READ MORE: The Lincoln Assassination 

Booth, who remained in the North during the war despite his Confederate sympathies, initially plotted to capture President Lincoln and take him to Richmond, the Confederate capital. However, on March 20, 1865, the day of the planned kidnapping, the president failed to appear at the spot where Booth and his six fellow conspirators lay in wait. Two weeks later, Richmond fell to Union forces. In April, with Confederate armies near collapse across the South, Booth hatched a desperate plan to save the Confederacy.

Learning that Lincoln was to attend Laura Keene’s acclaimed performance in Our American Cousin at Ford’s Theater on April 14, Booth plotted the simultaneous assassination of Lincoln, Vice President Andrew Johnson, and Secretary of State William H. Seward. By murdering the president and two of his possible successors, Booth and his conspirators hoped to throw the U.S. government into a paralyzing disarray.

On the evening of April 14, conspirator Lewis T. Powell burst into Secretary of State Seward’s home, seriously wounding him and three others, while George A. Atzerodt, assigned to Vice President Johnson, lost his nerve and fled. 

Meanwhile, just after 10 p.m., Booth entered Lincoln’s private theater box unnoticed, and shot the president with a single bullet in the back of his head. Although Booth had broken his left leg jumping from Lincoln’s box, he succeeded in escaping Washington.

The president, mortally wounded, was carried to a cheap lodging house opposite Ford’s Theater. About 7:22 a.m. the next morning, he died–the first U.S. president to be assassinated. 

READ MORE: 10 Things You May Not Know About the Lincoln Assassination

Booth was a well-regarded actor who was particularly loved in the South before the Civil War. During the war, he stayed in the North and became increasingly bitter when audiences weren’t as enamored of him as they were in Dixie. Along with friends Samuel Arnold, Michael O’Laughlin and John Surratt, Booth conspired to kidnap Lincoln and deliver him to the South.

On March 17, along with George Atzerodt, David Herold and Lewis Paine, the group met in a Washington bar to plot the abduction of the president three days later. However, when the president changed his plans, the scheme was scuttled. Shortly afterward, the South surrendered to the Union and the conspirators altered their plan. They decided to kill Lincoln, Vice President Andrew Johnson and Secretary of State William Seward on the same evening.

When April 14 came around, Atzerodt backed out of his part to kill Johnson. Upset, Booth went to drink at a saloon near Ford’s Theatre. At about 10 p.m. he walked into the theater and up to the president’s box. Lincoln’s guard, John Parker, was not there because he had gotten bored with the play and left his post to get a beer. Booth easily slipped in and shot the president in the back of the head. The president’s friend, Major Rathbone, attempted to grab Booth but was slashed by Booth’s knife. Booth injured his leg badly when he jumped to the stage to escape, but he managed to hobble outside to his horse.

Meanwhile, Lewis Paine forced his way into William Seward’s house and stabbed the secretary of state several times before fleeing. Booth rode to Virginia with David Herold and stopped at the home of Dr. Samuel Mudd, who placed splints on Booth’s legs. They hid in a barn on Richard Garrett’s farm as thousands of Union troops combed the area looking for them. The other conspirators were captured, except for John Surratt, who fled to Canada.

When the troops finally caught up with Booth and Herold on April 26, they gave them the option of surrendering before the barn was burned down. Herold decided to surrender, but Booth remained in the barn as it went up in flames. Booth was then shot and killed in the burning barn by Corporal Boston Corbett. On July 7, George Atzerodt, Lewis Paine, David Herold, and John Surratt’s mother, Mary, were hanged in Washington. The execution of Mary Surratt is believed by some to have been a miscarriage of justice. Although there was proof of Surratt’s involvement in the original abduction conspiracy, it is clear that her deeds were minor compared to those of the others who were executed.

Her son John was eventually tracked down in Egypt and brought back to trial, but he managed, with the help of clever lawyers, to win an acquittal.

READ MORE: How Presidential Assassinations Changed U.S. Politics

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Battle of Bentonville, North Carolina


Year
1865
Month Day
March 19

On March 19, 1865, at the Battle of Bentonville, North Carolina, Confederate General Joseph Johnston makes a desperate attempt to stop Union General William T. Sherman’s drive through the Carolinas in the Civil War’s last days; however, Johnston’s motley force cannot stop the advance of Sherman’s mighty army.

Following his famous March to the Sea in late 1864, Sherman paused for a month at Savannah, Georgia. He then turned north into the Carolinas, destroying all that lay in his path in an effort to demoralize the South and hasten the end of the war. Sherman left Savannah with 60,000 men divided into two wings. He captured Columbia, South Carolina, in February and continued towards Goldsboro, North Carolina, where he planned to meet up with another army coming from the coast. Sherman intended to march to Petersburg, Virginia, where he would join General Ulysses S. Grant and crush the army of Robert E. Lee, the largest remaining Confederate force.

Sherman assumed that Rebel forces in the Carolinas were too widely dispersed to offer any significant resistance, but Johnston assembled 17,000 troops and attacked one of Sherman’s wings at Bentonville on March 19. The Confederates initially surprised the Yankees, driving them back before a Union counterattack halted the advance and darkness halted the fighting. The next day, Johnston established a strong defensive position and hoped for a Yankee assault. More Union troops arrived and gave Sherman a nearly three to one advantage over Johnston. When a Union force threatened to cut off the Rebel’s only line of retreat on March 21, Johnston withdrew his army northward.

The Union lost 194 men killed, 1,112 wounded, and 221 missing, while the Confederates lost some 240 killed, 1,700 wounded, and 1,500 missing. About Sherman, Johnston wrote to Lee that, “I can do no more than annoy him.” A month later, Johnston surrendered his army to Sherman.

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