In January 1865, the Confederacy was dying. Its half-starved armies in the trenches outside Richmond and Petersburg faced disaster. The Carolinas braced for the onslaught of General William Sherman’s conquering army. Congress passed the Thirteenth Amendment abolishing slavery — thereby destroying the South’s economic bedrock. “The deep waters [are] closing over us,” wrote the prolific Southern diarist Mary Chestnut.
The final blows fell swiftly: the fall of Fort Fisher, North Carolina; Sherman’s march through the Carolinas; the capture of Richmond and Petersburg in April; and, a week later, the surrender of Robert E. Lee’s vaunted army. At last, the bloody war was over, but at the staggering cost of more than 700,000 deaths — and the assassination of President Abraham Lincoln. When the dust had settled, it would be seen that the Civil War had made the United States a world power.
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