It is incorrect to say the Civil War ended when Robert E. Lee surrendered his Army of Northern Virginia.
At the time Lee surrendered, there were still approximately 175,000 Confederate soldiers remaining in the field, many scattered throughout the South performing garrison duty, while the others were to be found primarily in three major commands; the last of which surrendered in June 1865.
It was sometime later, on Aug. 20, 1866, that President Andrew Johnson signed a proclamation declaring that peace existed throughout the entire U.S
But what was the war really all about? A panel of historians had this to say on that subject recently: "While slavery and its various and multifaceted discontents were the primary cause of disunion, it was disunion itself that sparked the war."
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States' rights and the tariff issue became entangled in the slavery issue and were intensified by it. Other important factors were party politics, abolitionism, Southern nationalism, Northern nationalism, expansionism, sectionalism, economics and modernization in the antebellum period.
Early on, President Abraham Lincoln said the war was to restore the Union; he included eliminating slavery only when he thought doing so might help the sagging war effort in 1863.
The assassination of Lincoln was likely the worst thing that could have happened to the Southern people following the cessation of hostilities. Reconstruction, which lasted for more than 11 long years, was a most difficult era for the South.
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