In 1865, on this day Confederate General Robert E. Lee issued the fateful order for the Army of Northern Virginia to disband and to take to the wilderness to act as guerilla fighters. His aide Walter Taylor apparently suggested the idea to him, and Lee, grief-stricken by the recent death of his wife Mary, and of the death of his son William as a Union prisoner, approved it.
American GuerillasFor the next 5 years, a reign of terror ruled the South as shootings, lynchings, and bombings became the norm. Anyone suspected of Union sympathies or those who collaborated with the occupation forces were frequently killed as an example to others, and the Union Army gradually laid a heavier and heavier hand on the South, taking civilians as hostages and conducting frequent reprisals.
After the assassination of President Andrew Johnson in 1868, Democrat Horatio Seymour defeated former general Ulysses S. Grant for the Presidency. Seymour immediately opened talks with the rebel leaders, most notably Nathan B. Forrest and John Mosby. A deal was struck with the rebels that the South would recieve limited autonomy, with the ability to opt out of trade deals and tariffs, but in return, slavery would be phased out over 20 years, with slaveowners receiving compensation. On January 1st, 1870, the agreement (now referred to as the Washington Agreement) officially took effect, and is now regarded in the South as a quasi-Independence Day.