Charleston Destroyed

Four years after the war had started there, Charleston was in ruins in April 1865. “Any one who is not satisfied with war should go to Charleston,” General William Sherman said, “and he will pray louder and deeper than ever that, the country, in its long future be spared any more war.” 

When lee’s army—exhausted, starving, and outnumbered—surrendered at Appomattox, the proceedings went remarkably smoothly. Generals Lee and Grant shook hands and signed articles of surrender, Lee gratefully accepted Grant’s offer of rations for his troops, and Grant prevented his men from cheering or firing celebratory salutes. “We did not want to exult over their downfall,” he later explained. “The war [was] over. The Rebels [were] our countrymen again.” 

But the fall of the Confederacy meant the invalidation, all at once, of all authority in the South, and order inevitably broke down. In the final segment of his seven-part Atlantic series (see “A Rebel’s Recollections” for excerpts from his earlier installments), the former rebel soldier George Cary Eggleston described the chaos of the days following surrender, as marauders robbed, looted, and terrorized the countryside, and no police force, justice system, or municipal government had the authority to keep them in check. He was pleasantly surprised to find that the federal army came to the rescue, helping to reestablish order and “protect all quiet citizens.” —Sage Stossel