What led to the end of the Civil War?

Expert Answers
larrygates eNotes educator| Certified Educator

In essence, the war was over before it started.  The South did not have the resources or manpower to fight a long sustained war which soon became a battle of attrition.  The end of the war, however, can be attributed to several events:

  • The Battle of Gettysburg.  Although technically a Confederate victory, losses sustained by Confederate forces were so devastating that the South could not long continue to fight.  The battle is generally considered the turning point in the war.
  • Sherman's March to the Sea.  General William T. Sherman was the first commander to consider civilian targets as fair game.  He burned a number of Confederate cities and towns, destroyed cotton bales, slaughtered cattle, and in essence made it impossible for the South to continue fighting.
  • General U.S. Grant's capture of Vicksburg.  This was the last Confederate city on the Mississippi River.  Its capture marked the culmination of the Anaconda Plan and cut the South in two. 
  • April, 1865, General Grant, recently appointed Commander In Chief of Union troops, cut the rail line between Petersburg and Richmond, Virginia.  Richmond was essentially lost to the Confederacy, and Lee sent a message to Grant asking for terms of surrender.  They met at Appomatox Courthouse on Palm Sunday, 1865, at which time Lee's surrender ended the war. 
thewanderlust878 | Student

There were many events that led to the end of the Civil War. Some impacted more than others, but all were important. Here are some of the biggest events that led to the end of the Civil War:

  • The Union's victories at Gettysburg and Vicksburg: these were two huge battles that definitely gave the Union the advantage after they won both these battles. Gettysburg was the official turning point of the war. After the battle President Lincoln gave his famous Gettysburg Address
  • Lincoln's signing of the Emancipation Proclamation: Lincoln officially declared all slaves free, which was the main reason the war started in the first place
  • Robert E. Lee surrendering at Appomattox Courthouse: this was the unofficial end of the war. The fighting was over, but the war was not publicly declared over until a few days afterwards