The southern slave states that rose up in rebellion in 1860 had pretty much gotten their asses kicked. It took four years of hundreds of thousands of corpses and amputated wounded, but the Confederacy was down to a few straggled divisions. Their best commander, Robert E. Lee, was doing his best to get his army back out into a battlefield, but was trapped at a place called Appomattox Court House and had almost no supplies or soldiers to continue on. Faced with the reality fighting was no longer an option, Lee answered his opponent General U.S. Grant's letters for a full surrender. By that afternoon of April 9, Lee signed formal papers on the terms of surrender: by all accounts more generous terms given by the winning army, as Grant was following Lincoln's instructions to be "gracious" in victory.
Lee's surrender of the Virginian army under his direct command wasn't the actual full-out end of the Civil War, as there were still other (some larger) Confederate armies on the battlefields in North Carolina and the West. But Lee was the top general of the southern armies, and the political leadership of the Confederacy was pretty much fleeing for their lives leaving Lee in charge: when he fell, the rest pretty much had nothing else to do but surrender as well.
And it's on this anniversary date that we do need to take up writer Brian Beutler's idea of making this day a national holiday of remembrance:
This week provides an occasion for the U.S. government to get real about history, as April 9 is the 150th anniversary of the Union’s victory in the Civil War. The generous terms of Robert E. Lee’s surrender to Ulysses S. Grant at Appomattox Court House foreshadowed a multitude of real and symbolic compromises that the winners of the war would make with secessionists, slavery supporters, and each other to piece the country back together. It’s as appropriate an occasion as the Selma anniversary to reflect on the country’s struggle to improve itself. And to mark the occasion, the federal government should make two modest changes: It should make April 9 a federal holiday; and it should commit to disavowing or renaming monuments to the Confederacy, and its leaders, that receive direct federal support.
We really do need this because we've got entire generations of Americans who seem to forget that the Confederate South LOST the war, that the South got its COLLECTIVE ASS kicked from the Mississippi to the Potomac, that the Southern argument for the primacy of slavery and the perpetuation of race hatred were the arguments of LOSERS and fools.
I'm not mincing word here. The whole "Lost Cause" mentality that has driven the likes of the KKK and 100-plus years of Jim Crow segregation and an additional 50-plus years of far right wingnuttery has poisoned our national landscape. We've got idiots in power and idiots in the streets running around acting and talking like the ideas of Jeff Davis and Edmund Pettus and other pro-slavery firebrands meant something.
The real end of the Civil War hasn't happened yet. We're still fighting the same ignorant haters as before, the same elitist upper-class barons who'd love to bring back cheap labor to the point of slavery itself and are eager to wipe out every civil liberty gain this nation's achieved since 1865. Back to Beutler:
People of good faith can argue over whether these kinds of symbolic concessions (as opposed to the concrete ones, which consigned emancipated slaves to a century of sanctioned depredations) were wise or necessary means to the end of preserving the Union. Some of them weren't concessions at all, so much as insufficient commitment on the part of Northerners to the livelihood of blacks in the South. "[A]s Northern Republican Party became more conservative," historian Eric Foner wrote recently, "Reconstruction came to be seen as a misguided attempt to uplift the lower classes of society." But 150 years on, we know that subjugation is a moral obscenity, and that there's no valid modern argument for spitshining the Confederacy.
One way to end the fighting is the reminder, the historical FACT that Appomattox happened, that the South LOST, that the Lost Cause itself is a bullsh-t ideology.
Dear Southern Conservative Far Right WingNuts Who Want to Take the United States Back to 1850: YOU LOST. YOU GOT YOUR ASSES KICKED. YOU SEE THAT AMERICAN FLAG, THE STARS AND STRIPES? GUESS WHAT! WINNERS WAVE THAT FLAG. WE PLANTED IT ON THE MOON, FOR GOD'S SAKE. WE BEAT THE NAZIS UNDER THAT FLAG. WE BEAT THE COMMIES WAVING THAT FLAG. WE'RE AMERICANS GODDAMMIT SO STOP IT WITH YOUR WHINY "OH BUT WE WANTS TO HATE TEH BLACKS" BULLSH-T. /rage
Appomattox Surrender Day. The day when every Confederate flag waver ought to hide in shame like the fools they are.
(Granted, this isn't as eloquent as Beutler makes it, but my points are valid).