William Tatum Wofford, a native of Habersham County, Georgia, practiced law in his native state before service in the Mexican-American War. In 1861, after his election as colonel of the 18th Georgia Infantry, Wofford served with the Army of Northern Virginia, eventually rising to the rank of brigadier general. In the fall of 1864, failing health forced a return home for rest and recuperation. In January 1865, Governor Joe Brown tapped Wofford to take command of the Department of North Georgia. Performing in this capacity, and reporting to General Robert E. Lee, Wofford would play an important role in one of the war’s final surrender ceremonies.
Writing from Danville, Virginia, on April 7, President Jefferson Davis suggested to Wofford, “…a few reliable men with combustible and explosive materials should be employed by you to interfere with Chattanooga and Knoxville Railroad as may thus be possible.” Wofford chose not to comply, but continued to collect soldiers – including deserters – from throughout his department. Major General George Thomas, working from his headquarters in Nashville, learned of a planned attack on the railroad Davis intimated Wofford should target. On April 18, Thomas dispatched Major General James Steedman in Chattanooga with a clear threat for Wofford. If the rail should come under attack, Thomas stood ready to “…so despoil Georgia that fifty years hence it will be a wilderness.” In this same communication, Thomas encouraged Wofford to surrender under the terms Lieutenant General U.S. Grant offered to Lee at Appomattox Court House. Wofford refused, noting, “…I am of the opinion that it is to the interest of the Government of the United States, as well as necessary for the protection of the citizens of upper Georgia, that my organization retain its present status.”
Wofford, working to get food for the hungry citizens of northwest Georgia, asked Brigadier General Henry Judah to consider “…a cessation of hostilities for an indefinite period of time….” This April 20 appeal came one day before Wofford learned of the surrender terms between General Joseph E. Johnston and Major General William T. Sherman in North Carolina. Less than one week later, Judah told Wofford of the rebuke of Sherman’s terms. Facing a resumption of hostilities, Wofford sought a meeting with Judah to discuss the “…propriety and expediency of surrendering myself and the forces under my command.” Wofford suggested meeting in Resaca on May 8 to discuss matters in greater detail. On May 2, six days earlier than Wofford had suggested, the two generals met, and agreed, in principle, on the same terms of surrender Grant extended to the Army of Northern Virginia.
Suggesting he needed time to collect his forces for an official surrender, Wofford believed he could organize for a May 12 ceremony in Kingston, and wrote to Judah providing an estimate of “…3,000 to 4,000” soldiers ready to stack arms.
Reporting from Kingston, Judah indicated 6,000 Confederate troops surrendered. Wofford, continuing to show great concern for his beloved region, asked for a Federal force to remain within the area to police against post-war tensions. The request received approval, and Wofford worked to preserve the peace, while helping to rebuild the war-ravaged sections of northwest Georgia.
Commemorate the last surrender on Saturday, May 9th in Kingston, Georgia.
 Ezra J. Warner, Generals in Gray: Lives of the Confederate Commanders (Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 1997), 343–44.
 U.S. Government, The War of the Rebellion Official Records of the Union and Confederate Armies, vol. 49, pt.2 (Harrisburg, PA: National Historical Society, 1985), 1213.
 Ibid. 396-97.
 Ibid., 456.
 Ibid., 488.
 Ibid., 707.
 Ibid., 804.
Michael K. Shaffer is a Civil War historian, author, newspaper columnist, and lecturer. He can be contacted at: www.civilwarhistorian.net.