Gen. Robert E. Lee surrendered to Gen. Ulysses Grant on April 15, 1865 at Appomattox Court House in Virginia, ending the Civil War. However, this event did not actually end the war.
Confederate General Edmund Kirby Smith was commander of the Confederate Trans-Mississippi division, charged with keeping the Mississippi River open to the Southerners. He also wanted to recapture Arkansas and Missouri from the Union.
After Lee’s surrender, Smith continued to lead his small army in Texas. He insisted that Lee and Joseph Johnston were prisoners of war following their surrender.
On this day in 1865, he finally surrendered to the Union, officially laying down his arms at Galveston on June 2.
Memorial Day began as a way to honor those who died in the Civil War and was known as Decoration Day. The holiday evolved after World War I to honor Americans who died in all our nation’s wars. It became an official federal holiday in 1971.
Henry Wadsworth Longfellow’s poem, “Decoration Day,” was written in 1882 to honor the Civil War dead but is a stirring way to remember all those who paid the ultimate price to serve our nation. It ends:
Your silent tents of green
We deck with fragrant flowers
Yours has the suffering been,
The memory shall be ours.
Remembering those who continue to fight
On this day after Memorial Day, I am thinking of those who died for us but also of those who survived their war but live with its consequences.
My father’s service in World War II marked him for the rest of his life. The US Department of Veterans Affairs estimates that 30 percent of Vietnam veterans suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder in their lifetimes. About 11 to 20 percent of those who served in the Gulf War, Iraq, and Afghanistan deal with PTSD as well.
Please stop to pray today for those we remembered yesterday. Pray for God’s protection for all those who are risking their lives on our behalf around the world.
And pray for our veterans who continue to suffer, asking God to give them strength, comfort, and peace.
Paul offered this intercession I invite you to pray for them and for us all: “May the Lord of peace himself give you peace at all times in every way. The Lord be with you all” (2 Thessalonians 3:16).