Lee Surrenders to Grant

April 9, 1865 – Federal General-in-Chief Ulysses S. Grant received the surrender of Confederate General-in-Chief Robert E. Lee and the last of his Army of Northern Virginia.

On the morning of Palm Sunday, Grant responded to Lee’s message received late on the 8th seeking a meeting to discuss peace: “I have no authority to treat on the subject of peace; the meeting proposed for 10 a.m. today could lead to no good… By the South laying down their arms they will hasten that most desirable event (peace), save thousands of human lives, and hundreds of millions of property not yet destroyed. Seriously hoping that all our difficulties may be settled without the loss of another life, I subscribe myself, &c. U.S. Grant, Lieutenant General.”[1]

Meanwhile, Confederates under Generals John B. Gordon and Fitzhugh Lee advanced on Major General Philip Sheridan’s Federal cavalry blocking their path along the Bent Creek Road near Appomattox Court House. The Confederates initially drove the Federals back, pushing forward to the crest of a hill. But beyond the crest lay the entire Federal Army of the James, poised to attack.[2]

The reinforced Federals pushed the Confederates back toward Appomattox. Three miles northeast, the Federal II and VI Corps of the Army of the Potomac confronted Confederates under Lieutenant General James Longstreet. Lee now had no hope to continue southwest and join General Joseph E. Johnston’s Confederate army in North Carolina. After four years of fighting, the Army of Northern Virginia now faced annihilation.[3]

As Longstreet prepared to meet the Federals in his front, Lee sent an aide through the Federal lines shortly before 12 p.m. waving a white towel and delivering a note requesting a meeting with Grant. Approaching Appomattox Court House, Grant received Lee’s message:

“I received your note of this morning on the picket line, whither I had come to meet you and ascertain definitely what terms were embraced in your proposal of yesterday with reference to the surrender of this army. I now request an interview, in accordance with the offer contained in your letter of yesterday, for that purpose.”[4]

Appomattox resident Wilmer McLean reluctantly allowed the armies to use the front parlor of his home to arrange the meeting. Ironically, McLean had moved away from Manassas to escape the war after his home had been damaged during the Battle of First Bull Run in 1861. Lee arrived at McLean’s home first; Grant arrived a half-hour later. Lee was impeccably dressed; Grant wore a basic, dirty uniform. One aide accompanied Lee; Federal officers with Grant included Generals Philip Sheridan, E.O.C. Ord, and George Custer. Colonel Eli Parker, a Seneca Indian serving on Grant’s staff, transcribed the terms of surrender.[5]

Lee Surrenders to Grant | Image Credit: Flickr.com

Lee Surrenders to Grant | Image Credit: Flickr.com

Grant reminisced about first meeting Lee during the Mexican War until Lee politely reminded him of the meeting’s purpose. The commanders sat at separate tables as Grant wrote out his terms and presented them to Lee: Confederate troops would go home until paroled; Confederate officers would also go home but be allowed to keep their sidearms. Grant initially rejected Lee’s request for his men to keep their horses, then relented. Lee accepted the terms, and both commanders signed the articles of surrender.[6]

Grant authorized the distribution of rations to the starving Confederates. With the surrender of the 28,000-man Army of Northern Virginia, Lee returned to his troops and announced: “I have done for you all that it was in my power to do. You have done all your duty. Leave the result to God. Go to your homes and resume your occupations. Obey the laws and become as good citizens as you were soldiers.”[7]

Grant prohibited a Federal attempt to fire artillery in celebration of the surrender, saying: “The rebels are our countrymen again.” Nevertheless, jubilation swept through the Federal ranks as Grant’s telegram reached the War Department near 9 p.m.: “General Lee surrendered the Army of Northern Virginia this afternoon on terms proposed by myself.”[8]

The next day, the parole process began and Lee issued his final order, General Order No. 9: “After four years of arduous service, marked by unsurpassed courage and fortitude, the Army of Northern Virginia has been compelled to yield to overwhelming numbers and resources…” Lee declined Grant’s request to recommend the surrender of all remaining armies, explaining that such a recommendation belonged to Jefferson Davis. In his report on the campaign to Davis, Lee wrote: “It is with pain that I announce to Your Excellency the surrender of the Army of Northern Virginia.”[9]

An official surrender ceremony took place on April 12. Federal troops lined the main road of Appomattox, and the Confederates formally, silently laid down their arms and banners. Presiding over the Federal ceremony was Brevet Major General Joshua L. Chamberlain, who ordered a salute to the surrendering troops. General John B. Gordon, the designated Confederate commander, returned the salute.[10]

Many smaller Confederate armies remained active at various locations. However, the end of the legendary Army of Northern Virginia virtually destroyed the Confederacy.

—–

[1] Foote, Shelby, The Civil War: A Narrative: Volume 3: Red River to Appomattox (Vintage Civil War Library, Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group, Kindle Edition, 2011-01-26), Kindle Locations 19697-19707

[2] Korn, Jerry, Pursuit to Appomattox: The Last Battles (Alexandria, VA: Time-Life Books, 1983), p. 138; Long, E.B. with Long, Barbara, The Civil War Day by Day (New York: Da Capo Press, Inc., 1971), p. 670-71; Ward, Geoffrey C., Burns, Ric, Burns, Ken, The Civil War (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1990), p. 377-81

[3] Catton, Bruce, The American Heritage Picture History of the Civil War (New York: American Heritage Publishing Co., 1960), p. 566; Korn, Pursuit to Appomattox: The Last Battles, p. 138; Long with Long, The Civil War Day by Day, p. 670-71

[4] Foote, The Civil War: A Narrative: Volume 3: Red River to Appomattox, Kindle Locations 19727-19737; Ward, Burns, Burns, The Civil War, p. 377-81

[5] Linedecker, Clifford L. (ed.), The Civil War A to Z (Ballantine Books, 2002), p. 18-19; Long with Long, The Civil War Day by Day, p. 670-71; Ward, Burns, Burns, The Civil War, p. 377-81

[6] Angle, Paul M., A Pictorial History of the Civil War Years (New York: Doubleday, 1967), p. 215-17; Long with Long, The Civil War Day by Day, p. 670-71

[7] Angle, A Pictorial History of the Civil War Years, p. 215-17; Linedecker (ed.), The Civil War A to Z, p. 18-19; Long with Long, The Civil War Day by Day, p. 670-71

[8] Angle, A Pictorial History of the Civil War Years, p. 215-17; Clark, Champ, The Assassination: The Death of the President (Alexandria, VA: Time-Life Books, 1983), p. 55

[9] Foote, The Civil War: A Narrative: Volume 3: Red River to Appomattox, Kindle Locations 20037-20067; Long with Long, The Civil War Day by Day, p. 672

[10] Korn, Pursuit to Appomattox: The Last Battles, p. 153-55; Long with Long, The Civil War Day by Day, p. 673-75

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7 thoughts on “Lee Surrenders to Grant

  1. […] April 10, 1865 – President Jefferson Davis and the Confederate government-in-exile left Danville, Virginia for Greensboro, North Carolina upon learning of General-in-Chief Robert E. Lee’s surrender. […]

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  2. […] E. Lee surrendered the Confederate Army of Northern Virginia to Ulysses S. Grant at Appomattox Court House, Virginia. This virtually sealed the Confederacy’s […]

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  3. […] E. Lee surrendered the Confederate Army of Northern Virginia to Ulysses S. Grant at Appomattox Court House, Virginia. This virtually sealed the Confederacy’s […]

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  4. […] General-in-Chief Robert E. Lee surrendered his Confederate army in Virginia, the last significant Confederate force east of the Mississippi River lingered in North Carolina […]

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  5. […] House once again and signed a second surrender document. This granted Johnston the same terms that Grant had given to Robert E. Lee at Appomattox. Confederate soldiers would surrender their arms at Greensboro and be paroled when […]

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  6. […] last man, but when Secretary of War John C. Breckinridge arrived to inform the group that Robert E. Lee had surrendered, the generals resisted Davis’s plan. Johnston said it “would be the greatest of crimes” to […]

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  7. […] Federals had already occupied much of this land. Nevertheless, when Smith had first learned of Robert E. Lee’s surrender last month, he urged his men to continue […]

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