This Week In History: April 9-15


This week in history: The American Civil War concludes at Appomattox and one of the most famous religious pieces of music premieres. Read more below and dive deeper with The Great Courses Plus.

April 9th, 1865 — The Civil War Ends

Page 1/3 document of the Civil War surrender of the Confederacy under General Robert E. Lee at Appomattox Court House. Dated June 10, 1865.

By 1865 the Civil War had been raging for four years. By March of that year Grant had tightened his grip around Lee and the Army of Northern Virginia, restricting their supply lines and forcing Lee to stretch out his weaker army and attempt to break through the siege. The Army of Northern Virginia’s final offensive strike came on March 25th, 1865 as Lee tried to break Grant’s grip, costing Lee close to 5,000 men. The Union used this victory to force the Confederates westward.Grant pursued Lee’s 35,000 men and forced him to bay during the Appomattox campaign. Lee hoped to march west then turn south towards North Carolina but Grant inflicted serious damage to the retreating army, capturing over 7,000 Confederates. The Federals got in front of Lee’s army, surrounding them, and forcing Lee to surrender.

Learn more about the “War Between the States” with The American Civil War.

April 13th, 1742 — Handel’s Messiah Premiers in Dublin

Portrait of George Frideric Handel by Balthasar Denner, circa 1726–1728

George Frideric Handel’s Messiah is one of the most recognizable songs of the Christmas season, being performed in churches and concerts halls around the world. Messiah is an oratorio, meaning it’s a dramatic rendering of a religious story or text, in this case the life, death, and resurrection of Christ.

Although it is usually referred to as “Handel’s Messiah,” the composition is really a collaboration between Handel and his librettist, Charles Jennens.

Since its writing, Messiah has risen to become a centerpiece of sacred music, particularly in English and German speaking countries.

Learn more about Handel’s works in The Great Works of Sacred Music

April 14th, 1818- Noah Webster publishes American Dictionary of the English Language

Noah Webster’s main goal throughout his life was to define the characteristics of American English. He wanted to highlight the difference between American and British English by stressing the independence of America as both a political and a linguistic phenomenon. Basically, he believed the former colonies had become a nation not just by sharing political or geographical experience but by sharing a linguistic experience.

In 1818 he published the American Dictionary of the English Language which was one of the first lexicons to include distinctly American words.

Learn more about the evolution of English with History of the English Language, 2nd Edition