Document of the Month

November 2015 Document of the Month | Final Words from the CSS Shenandoah

By John Coski
American Civil War Museum Historian

In the first week of November 1865, CSS Shenandoah returned to Liverpool, England – more than a year after she had left on her voyage to destroy the U.S. whaling fleet in the north Pacific Ocean and three months after her officers learned that they had carried out their mission more than a month after the Confederacy ceased to exist. Midshipman John T. Mason recorded matter-of-factly in the ship’s duplicate log the Shenandoahs arrival at the royal yards in Liverpool. 

October 2015 Documents of the Month | The Conquered Banner (And a Reply)

The June 24, 1865 issue of the New York Freeman’s Journal and Catholic Register featured a poem by “Moina” entitled “The Conquered Banner.” Capturing the mourning resignation of the Confederate South after Appomattox, the poem became an instant classic and was set to music and published in song form before the year was out.

A pro-Confederate Englishman, Henry Houghton, read the poem and, in October 1865, wrote a poetic “Reply.”  The two poems articulated competing attitudes of how Confederates should respond to defeat; the yin and yang between them still resonates today.

August 2015 Documents of the Month | U.S. Army Discharge Certificates

“Demobilization” is a term we usually associate with World War I and World II, but it also describes what occurred in the North after the Civil War.  More than 1 million servicemen mustered out of Federal army and navy and returned home to resume their civilian lives. As in the world wars, all Civil War soldiers did not muster out at the same time; demobilization occurred over a period of months and years beginning in the summer of 1865. The U.S. volunteers retained the longest were members of the U.S. Colored Troops, most of whom had enlisted in 1863-1865 for three-year terms.  The U.S.

July 2015 Document of the Month- Varina Davis letter to William H. Seward

July 1865 found Jefferson Davis imprisoned in Fort Monroe (though no longer shackled as he had been for a week in late May).  His wife, Varina, had been detained in Savannah, Georgia, before she was allowed to travel to Canada, where she settled her family temporarily. In communication with the high-powered Northern lawyers who signed on to defend Jefferson Davis from the government’s treason charges, the former Confederate first lady began

June 2015 Document of the Month | Prison Release & Parole Form

What a difference three days could make. Soldiers in the Army of Northern Virginia present for the surrender at Appomattox on April 9, 1865 received their paroles and were allowed to return to their homes. Soldiers who were captured in battles at and around Farmville on April 6, 1865 became prisoners of war; they were sent to prison camps, most notably Point Lookout, Maryland. As of June 20th, 50,000 Confederate soldiers remained at Point Lookout and in other prison camps. President Andrew Johnson ordered most prisoners released and, by the end of June, fewer than 2,500 remained.

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