150 Years Ago: Confederate Armies & Leaders Surrender, But the Rebel Raiders Fight On
May 3, 1865: As President Abraham Lincoln's body arrived in Springfield, Illinois, the Confederate leadership continued their efforts to escape the Union dragnet. Some sought to keep the Cause alive, while others, including Secretary of the Navy Stephen Mallory and Secretary of State Judah Benjamin realized that the end had come. On May 3 Mallory tendered his resignation and Benjamin separated himself from President Jefferson Davis's party, telling the Confederate leader at their last meeting in Abbeville, South Carolina, that he would attempt to reach the Bahamas to send final instructions to Confederate representatives abroad.
What was left of the Confederate armies in the field also began to dissolve. On May 4 the largest of those, some 42,000, were told to lay down their arms by their commander, General Richard Taylor, who surrendered his command to Union forces at Citronelle, Alabama. Five days later a force of five infantry brigades around which President Davis tried to organize resistance during his retreat through South Carolina are told to go home by their colonels. On May 10 the guerrilla leader William C. Quantrill was killed in a skirmish at Taylorsville, Kentucky - after which the remnants of his force (which included Frank and Jesse James and Cole Younger) dissolved. General Kirby Smith remained in the field with his army in the Trans-Mississippi, but directed his delegate, General Peter Osterhaus, to go to New Orleans to seek terms of surrender. On June 2 Smith surrendered the last Rebel army - although his deputy, Jo Shelby, refused to give up and headed for Mexico with a band of followers.
The Confederate Navy similarly began to fall apart. The CSS Nashville and a few gunboats and blockade runners fell back from Mobile up the Tombighee River after the city's surrender, but when Rear Admiral Thater and his Union flotilla followed, Captain Eben Farrand struck his colors, and surrendered the Rebel fleet on May 10.
On May 11, the ocean-going ironclad CSS Stonewall reached Havana, ready to take on coal and provisions for her planned foray to break the blockade. When her commander Captain Page learned of the surrender at Appomattox, however, he went to the Spanish captain-general and on May 19 struck a deal to sell the warship to Spain. He divided the proceeds among his crew to pay their wages.
One last Rebel warship, however, kept up the fight. The CSS Shenandoah steamed on from Australia and on to the Bering Strait, where in late June she decimated the Yankee whaling fleet. Captain James Waddell was shown newspapers by the whaling ship captains that reported the fall of Richmond and the surrender of General Robert E. Lee, but Waddell believed that Davis would continue the war, at least as a guerrilla struggle, and kept on raiding. It was not until August 2 that Waddell, en route to San Francisco to bombard the city, learned from an English ship that the war was truly over. That same day, August 2, as Jo Shelby entered Mexico City to a offer his sword to the Emperor Maximillian, Waddel shipped his guns and set a course that would take the CSS Shenandoah to Liverpool, where he would surrender the last Confederate command in November.
The last two Confederate warships to surrender, the CSS Stonewall and the CSS Shenandoah, appear as counters and cards in GMT's strategic naval game of the Civil War, Rebel Raiders on the High Seas.