The Final Struggles: September 1864 to April 1865

Beginning of the End

Did Lincoln recognize the importance of the moment?

To be sure. No previous American president had ever toured a surrendered capital, and no previous American chief executive had ever received the thanks of so many people. To top it all off, Lincoln roamed the streets, showing little concern for his personal safety. This alarmed some of his bodyguards, but it delighted the people of Richmond.

At that moment, in the first week of April 1865, Lincoln stood atop a mountain, figuratively speaking. He had reached the summit of his long battle to preserve the Union, and the Confederacy—if it had any life remaining—was about to be consigned to the dustbin. Just as important, Lincoln had done it his way: his emphasis on mercy and forgiveness seemed to be doing the trick. No one could be unmoved by the sight of such success, and Lincoln certainly was not. He did realize, however, how much work remained to be accomplished.

The final troop movements of the war had Confederate forces retreating from Richmond and Petersburg, eventually ending up in Appomattox, Virginia.


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