Surrender of the Western Confederate Army
120. [CIVIL WAR]. CONFEDERATE STATES ARMY. DEPARTMENT OF THE TRANSMISSISSIPPI WEST. “Terms of Military Convention entered into this 26th day of May 1865 at New Orleans [i.e., Shreveport] La between Gen E. Kirby Smith Confederate States Army commanding the Dept, Trans Miss & Maj Gen. E.R.S. Canby U S Army Cmg the Army & Div’s of West Miss’s for the surrender of the Military and Naval authorities of the Texas Miss Dept.” Signed “S.B. Buckner,” “P. Jas Asterhaus” “J.N. Gallaher” and “Austin N. Standish”; noted as “Official Copy”; “Supplemental Articles” signed and noted same as above; “General Order, Shreveport, June 2, 1865” signed by Maj Gen Parsons and J. Waldo (authentic signature), noted as “Official”; undated (but June 2, 1865) “General Order” signed by “Col. Mitchell” and Waldo (authentic signature).  pp. on two sheets of light gray wove paper with stationer’s mark reading “Correspondentia Particulae.” Almost entirely in secretarial hand. Creased where formerly folded, some small voids with loss of some letters at folds and other places; second sheet is moderately waterstained at bottom. Professionally stabilized and conserved, including infilling voids and tissue support for both leaves, and encapsulation.
This “Military Convention” includes eight clauses, providing: (1) the immediate cessation of hostilities; (2) parole to Confederates with provision for duplicate rolls to be made; (3) the surrender of all armaments with duplicate lists to be made of the equipment; (4) for troops to return peaceably to their homes with the exception of those who must take the oath of allegiance first; (5) the exemption of personal horses and baggage from being surrendered; (6) a time to issue the paroles; (7) that the document applies to all Army and Navy officers in Smith’s command; and (8) public subsistence and transportation to the paroled troops. The “Supplemental Orders” provide: (1) that property to be surrendered will be given to a designated official; (2) that Confederate States naval property will be surrendered to appointed commissioners; and (3) that parolees will serve as guards of public property until regular U.S. troops arrive to assume those duties. The June 2, 1865, General Order states that muster rolls will be immediately made out to expedite the process of granting paroles. The undated General Order requires commanders and other officers to comply with the June 2, 1865, general order.
These documents represent the last chapter in the Civil War. The final battle of the war took place in Texas at Palmito Ranch on May 13, 1865, when Rip Ford’s outnumbered troops defeated a superior Union force. However, none of that changed the fact that Lee, Johnston, and basically all Confederate forces east of the Mississippi River had already surrendered. The news of Lee’s surrender caused a devastating loss of morale and occasioned desertions in Texas. The Transmississippi West Confederate Commander, E. Kirby Smith, hastened toward Houston to rally his troops, only to find that none were left. When he finally reached Houston on May 27, he discovered that on the previous day, Buckner, acting in his name, had surrendered his army, which is the act documented here. With this surrender the Civil War actually came to an end, although Smith himself did not formally surrender to Canby until June 2.
With these documents is a small archive of research materials, which includes, inter alia, photocopies from secondary sources of biographical information about the participants, a copy of the original documents from the National Archives, and an original issue of the August 9, 1908, (St. Louis) Sunday Post Dispatch Magazine, which has an article, “Found: Confederate Surrender Papers” that describes the last desperate hours of the Confederacy and the selling of a copy of the surrender agreement by a Smith descendent.
Edmund Kirby Smith (1824-1893), after showing great skill in the war in the East, was made commander of the Trans-Mississippi Department in 1862, a command he held for the duration. He moved back east after the war and died in Tennessee. Simon Bolivar Buckner (1823-1914), the man who initially surrendered the army, was commander of the District of Arkansas and West Louisiana at the time, a post to which he was promoted after a rising career in the Confederate Army. Ironically, he was good friends with Ulysses S. Grant because of their mutual service in the Mexican-American War and later served as one of Grant’s pallbearers.
Any contemporary copy of such orders is rare. Copies of any such documents marked as “official” are especially so. This one is particularly significant for both Confederate and Texas history.
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Copyright Dorothy Sloan 2009