May 26

This Day in History

Civil War

May 26, 1865:

One of the last Confederate generals surrenders

Confederate General Edmund Kirby Smith, commander of the Confederate Trans-Mississippi division, surrenders on this day in 1865, one of the last Confederate generals to capitulate. Smith, who had become commander of the area in January 1863, was charged with keeping the Mississippi River open to the Southerners. Yet he was more interested in recapturing Arkansas and Missouri, largely because of the influence of Arkansans in the Confederate Congress who helped to secure his appointment.

Drawing sharp criticism for his failure to provide relief for Vicksburg, Mississippi in the summer of 1863, Smith later conducted the resistance to the Union’s failed Red River campaign of 1864. When the Confederate forces under Robert E. Lee and Joseph Johnston surrendered in the spring of 1865, Smith continued to resist with his small army in Texas. He insisted that Lee and Johnston were prisoners of war and decried Confederate deserters. On May 26, General Simon Buckner, acting for Smith, met with Union officers in New Orleans to arrange the surrender of Smith's force under terms similar to Lee's surrender at Appomattox, Virginia. Smith reluctantly agreed, and officially laid down his arms at Galveston on June 2. Smith himself fled to Mexico, and then to Cuba, before returning to Virginia in November 1865 to sign an amnesty oath. He was the last surviving full Confederate general until his death in 1893.

Twenty-three days after Smith's surrender, Brigadier General Stand Watie, a Cherokee, became the last Confederate field general to surrender.

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