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Opening Arguments

It's over when I say it is

Anal retentive fussbudget stomps his little feet and demands we stop saying the Civil War ended on April 9, 1865:

While it is true that General Robert E. Lee surrendered his Army of Northern Virginia to U.S. General Hiram Ulysses Grant (who most call Ulysses Simpson Grant) on April 9, 1865, that action didn’t fully end the war. It only ended the fighting right there in northern Virginia. It just plain didn’t signal the actual end of the war.

[. . .]

In reality, despite the promotion and the plans, Lee had no effective way to communicate to the other armies in the field with enough alacrity to control their movements. After all, you have to remember that this was a day when the telegraph was the only way to communicate over long distances past delivering your message on a railroad, a horse, or a boat. The lag time of communications made direct command of forces over thousands of miles of territory practically impossible.

[. . .]

Yes, the bloodshed continued for some time after Lee’s surrender. As a study by Darroch Greer notes, battles continued to rage between north and south for months after Lee gave up his army. At least another 14,000 casualties were racked up before the last battle ended by July of 1865.

OK. Lousy communications, so the word didn't get out. Got it. A lot more casualties before the thing "officially" was declared done. Check. But when one side's commander surrenders, the war is over. Get over yourself and deal with it.

Shouldn't the 150th anniversary of the war's end -- OK, Lee's surrender -- have been a bigger deal than it was. Our newspaper has been doing a good job, I think, of running 150th-anniversary stories this year, and Kevin Leininger had a good column on Lee's surrender yesterday. But I would have thought I'd seen a lot of coverage in the national media, which go bonkers over anniversaries of the silliest things.

Posted in: History