Battling to the Bitter End

The long bloody war was finally over, but the country, which had been divided and devastated in its wake, was left with as many questions as answers. Hundreds of thousands of soldiers would finally experience the elation of coming home, but hundreds of thousands more would either never come home at all or do so with deep scars—physical or otherwise. Millions of slaves would finally get their first taste of freedom, only to find it tempered by the stark reality of “what now?” The paradoxes of 1865 are unavoidable.

It was a year of dramatic beginnings and endings. It would see the end of what is arguably the most famous army in American military history, the Army of Northern Virginia. It would herald transitions for common soldiers as well as uncommon leaders. The assasination of Abraham Lincoln within days of the war’s end served as the final act to one of history’s epic dramas. But from death springs new life. The America we know 140 years later and many of the currents that buffet it have substantial roots in 1865.

This special 1865 issue completes our series of anniversary issues dedicated to each year of the war (previous issues of that series were available only on newsstands or via mail order). As we mark the 140th anniversary of the end of the war, we also mark the beginning of a new era at Civil War Times as we inaugurate our new 10 issues per year frequency.

In telling the story of 1865, we are pleased to offer new articles from top historians, such as Steven Woodworth’s examination of the fall of Columbia and William Marvel’s retelling of the Battle of Palmetto Ranch. We are also proud to present some outstanding material from various periods of Civil War Times’ rich 44- year history. We believe you will agree that pieces like Jay Luvaas’ “Bentonville— Last Chance to Stop Sherman” or Howard Holzer, Gabor Boritt and Mark Neely’s “Images of Peace” hold up as well today as they did in 1963 or 1987.

Much has changed in 44 years, but Civil War Times’ commitment to the study and preservation of Civil War history has not. As a longtime reader before joining the staff, I want to take this opportunity to thank everyone who has played a part in that. And I assure you that we will continue doing our part to guarantee that the Civil War’s past will have a long future.

There’s nothing paradoxical about that.


Originally published in the January 2006 issue of Civil War Times. To subscribe, click here.