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The Leavenworth Times - Leavenworth, KS
  • LV Times columnist: Historical research yields answers — I think

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  • Today’s column is yet another example of my long simmering dislike of research.  Research of and by itself is fine and necessary, I suppose, but it can and does get very frustrating.
    Today’s case in point follows.
    In looking ahead at military oriented calendars for column topics, I found in the National Museum of the U.S. Army calendar as an entry for today’s date, “The Civil War officially declared over in 1865.”
    A quick check of two Civil War calendars, the Civil War Trust calendar and Friends of Gettysburg, found no entry for today’s date.
    Say what? The official end of a major war is not listed in two of that war’s calendars?
    The first thing that came to mind was the sports phrase, “It’s not over 'til it’s over,” often seen as, “It ain’t over 'til it’s over.”
    But, a check of the 1,040-page book, “Quotationary,” by Webster, did not turn up even that familiar quote that everybody has heard.
    So, it was off to other sources.
    The almost always reliable Army Almanac had the entry, “Civil War officially ended by President Johnson,” but had it in 1866.
    The often suspect official U.S. Army history book, American Military History, stated that President Andrew Johnson went ahead with his own reconstruction plans after he was sworn in following President Abraham Lincoln’s assassination.
    It said Johnson declared the Civil War formally at an end in April 1866. So now in three different sources we have two different months and two different years.
    The almost always reliable Chronicle of America, a monster 956-page book that shows U.S. history through newspaper articles, told of Lee surrendering to Grant at Appomattox, Va., on April 9, 1865, but other articles said that fighting between North and South continued for several weeks.
    The last major Confederate force east of the Mississippi River, commanded by Gen.  Kirby Smith, surrendered to Gen. Edward Canby seven weeks after Lee’s surrender.
    The continued fighting was attributed to several factors, including communication problems and “simmering resentment” on the part of diehard holdouts who believed strongly in the Confederate cause.
    But, in none of the books searched did I find a reason that it took more than a year for the U.S. president to officially declare the war over.
    Somewhere around the house I have some reasonably official history books about the Civil War. One of these days when there are no other chores or duties or whatever, perhaps I’ll have time to find them and dig out the reason for the rather lengthy delay between the end of hostilities and declaration of the official end of the war.
    Page 2 of 2 - Or, since next year is the end of the sesquicentennial of the Civil War, surely some magazine will publish an update on the conflict’s end that will explain the disparity.
    Surely, as a popular TV show used to say at the end of each episode, “The truth is out there somewhere.”
    Our mission, as humble scribes, I suppose, is to keep digging through references until we get to the truth.
    Which leads to this final question: How are we supposed to know when we find it?

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