Appomattox Day: The Official End of the Civil War but Not Regional Conflict

It took the fall of Richmond and several rounds of communication between the regions before the American Civil War reached an end. The peace accord reached between General Robert E. Lee and General Ulysses S. Grant culminated with Lee’s surrender on April 9, 1865, at the Appomattox Court House in Virginia. The day of Lee’s surrender was to become known as Appomattox Day.

Though Appomattox Day marked the official end of the war, the conflict between the two regions continued simmering. Here are three periods in American History that saw the regional conflict reignited:

1. Reconstruction — 1865 to 1866

Under Andrew Johnson’s presidency, America experienced continued political and socioeconomic turmoil that only managed to increase the fissure between the regions. The nexus of the conflict involved Johnson’s handling of the reconstruction and the ideological differences between political parties. Johnson’s Proclamation of 1865, the establishment of the black codes, the passage of two constitutional amendments and the congressional elections of 1866 all added fuel to the fire.

The Proclamation of 1865 and the black codes angered Northerners. They did not like the Proclamation because it granted amnesty and pardons to former Confederate soldiers as well as allowed the return of land and assets seized during the war. Northerners also objected to the black codes because they were designed by Southerners to restrict the rights of the blacks as well as force them back onto the plantation as unregulated labor.

Constitutional amendments 14 and 15 angered Southerners because they gave blacks the right to vote and hold office. Southerners incensed at what they saw as unfair treatment for themselves expressed outrage over the blacks being given the right to vote and hold office by forming violent, white supremacy groups like the Klu Klux Klan.

2. Radical Reconstruction 1867 to 1877

As the proliferation of white supremacy groups continued, Republican leaders like Thaddeus Stevenson and Benjamin Butler pushed for the passage of a series of Reconstruction Acts. These acts caused much discourse between the political parties and eventually ushered in the enactment of the Jim Crow laws of 1876. With the Jim Crow laws came a period of racial segregation and restrained rights for African Americans that continued well into the 1960s.

3. Civil Rights Movement – 1955 to 1968

The Civil Rights Movement once again reignited regional tensions that had lain simmering under the surface since the Civil War. It marked a time of great racial unrest, political infighting and civil violence between the regions. The movement eventually succeeded in bringing forth an end to racial segregation and causing the restoration of African American voting rights.

Digital History, “Rights and Power: The Politics of Reconstruction” Digital History
Constitutional Rights Foundation, “The Southern Black Codes of 1865-66” Constitutional Rights Foundation
PBS, “The Rise and Fall of Jim Crow” PBS
History Channel, “This Day in History: April 9th, 1865” History Channel