Where Did the Ex-Confederate Leaders Go After the Confederacy Was Defeated by the Union?
Jefferson Davis, president of the Confederacy, spent two years shackled to a wall in a Virginia prison. He had many unlikely sympathetic supporters including the Pope, who advocated for mercy, and even some former enemies and abolitionists. After he was released he went to Canada and Cuba and England and eventually managed a successful insurance company, hiring only former Confederate officers. He remained an unrepentant racist and Confederate supporter until the end of his life.
Alexander Stephens, the vice president of the Confederacy, was arrested and held in prison at George’s Island in Boston until October, 1865. He was released from indemnity by Andrew Johnson, a pro-slavery, anti-Black President. He was elected to the Senate, which refused to allow him to sit; was elected to Congress; and became the governor of Georgia. Stephens was a rabid anti-Black racist who wrote the “Cornerstone Speech” stating the the Civil War was all about slavery and that Blacks would never be the equals of Whites.
Robert E. Lee, former General, was not arrested but joined the pro-Confederate Democrats and worked to prevent Blacks from getting the right to vote. He lost all his property and money and the right to vote. He was seen as an iconic, sacrificial Christ-like figure in the South and often had to speak against resuming the war by any means possible as many of his supporters wanted. He was used as a vehicle of reconciliation. Later, he was the very successful head of Washington College, which he built up greatly.
James Longstreet, former General and one of the best strategists of the war, became a largely mediocre businessman with little success. He was friends with Grant, who helped him and supported the Union/Republican cause, which made him a pariah in the South [as he was] seen as a traitor. In 1874 a major election battle broke out between about 10,000 white supremacists and former Confederate soldiers and about 3500 Federals, including Black troops. It was called “The Battle of Liberty Place” and was a resounding “Confederate” victory. Federal troops had to be sent in to restore order. Longstreet was shot and captured by the White faction and treated poorly until his release. He became a turkey farmer and called his farm “Gettysburg.” It was destroyed, along with his uniforms and writings and memorabilia, in a fire. He died after years of poor health, hated by the South but outliving almost all of his detractors, in 1904.
J.E.B. Stuart, cavalry general, was mortally wounded near the end of the war in the Battle of the Yellow Tavern, shot in the back.
George Pickett, a general associated with Pickett’s charge at Gettysburg, fled the country for fear of prosecution for war crimes. He went to Canada for two years until he was pardoned. He was in ill health for the remainder of his life and died in 1875, about 10 years after the war. He was always bitter about what happened at Gettysburg and never stopped blaming Lee for the destruction of his men. Over 40,000 people showed up for his funeral but his body was buried in a secret location and the massive monument built over an empty grave.
John Bell Hood was a brilliant and reckless general who arrived late to the battle of Gettysburg and was immediately wounded by an artillery shell. He was relieved by an incompetent who frittered away the South’s last best chance to win the battle or at least fight to a draw. After the war he was immediately exonerated of any crime and for a while was a successful businessman. However, about 12 years later, an economic crisis caused his business to succumb and six days later he caught yellow fever and died.
Joe Johnston was a senior, controversial general who was critical of the Confederate leadership and saw people against him everywhere. After surrendering to Sherman, the two became friends. Johnston became a marginally successful businessman with many interests in railroads and insurance. He served one term as a Democratic congressman. He caught a cold at the funeral of William Sherman and died soon after.
P.G. T. Beauregard, a capable general who often stopped Grant, became a marginally successful businessman after the war. He was frequently critical of Jefferson Davis and believed the war could have been won. Although he was virulently anti-Black, he worked hard to establish Black civil rights, telling southern leaders that they had to find a way to make it work for the good of the country
Simon Buckner, the third-ranking general in the Confederacy, was a shrewd businessman who ran a newspaper after the war. He was able to amass a large fortune and recover all of his lost property in Kentucky and reestablish himself as a leader in the community. He went into politics. He died in 1914, one of the last surviving generals of the Civil War.
Robert Ewell, wounded and captured near the war’s end, spent a year at the Fort Warren POW camp on George’s Island with 17 other generals. He became a proponent of the Union and spent the rest of his life as a modest farmer, dying quietly in 1891.
Nathan Bedford Forrest, a former slave trader, fell on hard times after the war. He ran many businesses—was corrupt and ruined them—and was not well-liked. He started, or helped to start, the KKK, and was virulently anti-Black. He made a surprising turnaround and became an advocate of civil rights and Black education, earning the enmity of the KKK and other anti-Black causes. He died of diabetes in 1877.
There are dozens of Confederate generals, some we know and most we never think of. After the war many were aided by friends and found jobs in the burgeoning railroad or insurance industries.
This post originally appeared on Quora. Click here to view.