Peace and Legacy.
The surrender of Robert E. Lee and the Army of Northern Virginia on April 9, 1865 effectively ended the War of the Rebellion. In an interesting twist of fate, Lee surrendered his forces at the home of Wilmer McLean in the village of Appomattox Court House. McLean had moved his family shortly after the First Battle of Bull Run, fought on July 21, 1861,which took place on on his farm in northern Virginia.
President Abraham Lincoln was assassinated by John Wilkes Booth on April 14, 1865 just five days after the surrender of Lee and almost 4 years to the day from his initial call for volunteers. Lincoln's assassination threw the country, already reeling from four years of conflict, into deep mourning. Northern anger over the assassination of Lincoln lead fueled an angry by the radical republicans that delayed the nation's quick healing hoped for by Lincoln.
Grand Army of the Republic (GAR)
The veterans who served during the war formed bonds of friendship that lasted far beyond the battlefield. These veterans were determined to see that these bonds continue throughout their lives, and as a result, formed a number of organizations.
The GAR was a the largest fraternal organization composed entirely of veterans of the Union Army, Navy, and Marines who had served in the American Civil War. The structure included the National Organization, State level organizations known as Departments, and local units known as Posts. All members belonged to a Post and many communities across the United States had local posts of the GAR. As a national organization, the GAR existed from 1866 until 1956 with the death of its last member, Albert Woolson.
The GAR was instrumental in the establishment of Memorial Day as a national observance, they worked tirelessly for the expansion of widow's and veteran's pensions, and for many years, no US Presidential Candidate was elected without the endorsement of the GAR.