After Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee surrendered his Army of Northern Virginia to U.S. Gen. Ulysses S. Grant on April 9, 1865, just days after both forces passed through Farmville, soldiers from both sides of the war began to return to their homes facing a radically different country.
The ensuing decades were marked by failed efforts at Reconstruction and unhealed wounds that persisted in the rejoined country. On Saturday, Feb. 6, some of the top Civil War scholars in the country will discuss the immediate aftermath of the Appomattox Court House surrender and the formative decades that followed in the 17th annual Civil War Seminar at Longwood University.
"Longwood really had a front seat to history in the final days of the Civil War, and more than a few soldiers—Union and Confederate alike—passed back through town as they made their way home after the surrender," said Dr. David Coles, professor of history at Longwood and seminar organizer. "Last year we focused on the final week of the war, and this year we continue our scholarship chronologically with several experts and authors who have deep insights into the war’s conclusion."
An impressive list of authors and historians will present in Jarman Auditorium on Saturday, Feb. 6. The doors open at 8:30 a.m.
Ernie Price, a longtime National Park Service historian and now chief of visitor services and education at Appomattox Court House National Historical Park, will begin the day with an exploration of Confederate soldiers’ journeys home after Appomattox. Patrick Schroeder, author of more than 25 books on the Civil War, will discuss the extended impact of the surrender, detailing the struggles of the next century in American life.
A pair of National Park Service veterans, Rick Hatcher and Frank O’Reilly, will continue the discussion. Hatcher served more than 40 years with the organization and has written or co-authored numerous books and articles on the war. His latest book, The Campaign and Battle of Wilson’s Creek, was published by Virginia Tech in 2015. O’Reilly, a Washington & Lee graduate, served as the sesquicentennial special events coordinator for Fredericksburg, Chancellorsville and the Overland Campaign’s 150th anniversary commemorations, and his 2003 book, The Fredericksburg Campaign: Winter War on the Rappahannock, was nominated for the Pulitzer Prize in Letters.
The final speaker, Eric Wittenberg, is an attorney and author who has published more than 18 books on Civil War history, focusing his efforts on cavalry operations. He was a member of the Governor of Ohio’s Commission on the Sesquicentennial of the Civil War and maintains a popular blog in Civil War buff circles, "Rantings of a Civil War Historian."
"We again have put together a really impressive list of speakers whose expertise on the Civil War is vast and varied," said Coles. "Each presenter brings a unique perspective to the aftermath of the war and will share insights attendees won’t get anywhere else. As sesquicentennial events have wrapped up, it’s fitting that we turn our attention to the lasting effects of the war, and I can’t think of any more qualified people to do just that than these presenters."
The seminar is free and open to the public.
All events will be held at Jarman Auditorium on Longwood University’s campus. A complete schedule of events can be found at on Longwood's website. The seminar is sponsored by the Longwood Department of History, Political Science and Philosophy and Appomattox Court House National Historical Park.