How long did it take before everyone in the US knew the civil war was over?

So, Robert E. Lee surrendered on April 9, 1865, and that’s considered the end of the civil war. There was no internet, no radio, and a lot of newspapers weren’t daily but weekly at that time, if an area had a paper at all. Mail services did exist then, however.

So when did it become common knowledge that the war was over? How long after the official end of the war were people in isolated areas still laboring under the belief that the war was still on-going? I’ve seen movies where people that summer were still trying to defend against members of the northern or southern armies who had no idea that they weren’t still part of an official war effort any more - did this really happen? It seems like it must have here and there…

Were there a lot of people in May of 1865 or later who learned at the same time that not only was Lincoln dead, the war was over too?

With the exception of a few hermits, people knew within a day or two. News was spread by the extensive telegraph networks. The headline of the San Francisco papers was of the Lincoln assassination the next morning. I think most major newspapers were daily and also had a morning and an evening edition.

There are folks who think it’s STILL going on.

Word of Lee’s surrender did not reach Texas until May, and the last Confederate forces in Texas surrendered on June 2.

The holiday of Juneteenth commemorates the announcement of Emancipation in Texas on June 19, 1865.

Moderator Note

Please avoid political commentary in General Questions. No warning issued, but it’s not required for you to make tangential remarks in every thread.:wink:

General Questions Moderator

That was true for major cities. It may have taken longer for word to spread to more remote rural communities that were not in direct communication with telegraph stations.

I imagine that even weekly papers would have rushed out a special edition, for news as big as the end of the war or the assassination of the President.

The wiki article says that the news reached them around April 20th. They just were stubborn and held out longer.

Lee’s surrender was the first of a rolling cascade of surrenders that took more than a month. By that time, the Confederates lack the cohesion to have one person speak for all of them. Jefferson Davis was captured on May 10, but individual commanders and state leaders were determined to fight until the last. With so much of the technical infrastructure in the South destroyed word spread there much slower than in the North.

Branson’s troops lost the battle because they didn’t expect opposition. In the end, that didn’t change reality. Nor did it end all fighting. “Cherokee Brigadier General Stand Watie commanded the Confederate Indians when he surrendered on June 23.”

Telegraph communication was put back fairly quickly but spottily. Rural pockets away from the lines were definitely more isolated than we can understand today.

Even so, virtually every town in America had a newspaper. Larger towns had two. Cities had half a dozen or more, and many dailies, including papers in the languages of the predominant immigrant populations.

Oops, sorry. Didn’t think that was particularly political. Now that I rethink,it you are correct.
I will be more careful.
Thanks for not issuing a warning.

The CSS Shenandoah was the last active military force of the rebels. The captain learned off the coast Alaska of Lee’s surrender on June 27, 1865. He then went on a shooting spree against whalers.

Then on August 3 he learned about the capture of Davis and some of the remaining cabinet. Sailed to England to try and avoid capture. Surrendered to the British Navy in Liverpool on Nov. 6.

So by the end of June all relevant Americans* had heard Lee surrendered. And that knew the war was essentially over about a month later.

  • Surely there were non-combatant Americans roaming the Australian outback and whatnot who wouldn’t hear for a while longer, but they were well outside the country and not participating in the war.

The last Confederate military force to receive word of the surrender was the CSS Shenandoah, which continued to raid US shipping in the North Pacific as late as August 1865. The captain received word of Lee’s surrender on June 27, but continued attacks until he received word on August 3 of the surrender of the last Confederate armies and Jefferson Davis’s capture. He decided to surrender in Britain to avoid possible charges in the US. The formal surrender took place in Liverpool on November 6, 1865.

An interesting bit of trivia: The last shot of the Civil War was fired in the Aleutian Islands by the Shenandoah across the bow of a US whaler.

ETA: Ninja’d.

Because the treaty was signed in Europe, the War of 1812 treaty was signed during the Battle of New Orleans and the battle ended before both sides knew of the treaty. Treaty signed 12/24/1814 and the battle ended 1/18/1815.

A decade later it took about 9 days for word of the Battle of the Little Bighorn to reach Washington DC (just in time for the 4th of July centennial celebration). Granted the War Department probably had a more streamlined method of communicating from the front of a campaign against the American Indians.

If memory serves, they initially heard from some Yankee ships, their targets, so they were skeptical until they heard it from some Brits. They were contemplating attacking San Francisco at time!

I recommend Sea of Grey if you want to read more.

Some parts of Missouri apparently didn’t get the memo until 1889.