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April 9, 1865 -- General Lee's Surrender at Appomattox Courthouse

Surrender at Appomattox Courthouse
Surrender at Appomattox Courthouse

As the great general would say later, they fought valiantly for a cause they believed in. They just ran out of men and supplies. And thus General Robert E. Lee surrendered on April 9, 1865 (Palm Sunday) to General Ulysses S. Grant at Appomattox Courthouse, VA. The long cruel was had ended.

The end was imminent. General Lee had pulled his troops out of Richmond and Petersburg on April 2. That same day President Jefferson Davis had fled the capital city of the Confederacy.

Both Generals Grant and Lee had been corresponding, with notices bouncing back and forth between their headquarters since April 7. General Grant telling General Lee “the result of last week must convince you of the hopelessness of further resistance…” and asked for Lee’s surrender.

General Lee responded that while he did not agree with the hopelessness of the endeavor, he did “reciprocate your desire to avoid useless effusion of blood…and asked the terms you will offer for unconditional surrender.”

Notes passed between the two generals on the next day clarified the situation, General Grant first asking for only one condition “that the men and officers surrendered shall be disqualified for taking up arms against the Government of the United States…”.

General Lee responded that his original note did not intend "to propose the surrender of the Army of Northern Virginia” but that the sole object in his mind was the restoration of peace. He did, however, agree to meet with General Grant at 10 a.m. the following day, April 9.

What happened that day is historic. General Lee surrendered himself and 26,000 men.

The terms of the surrender are as follows: Agreement entered into this day (April 9, 1865) in regard to the surrender of the Army of Northern Virginia:

1. The troops shall march by brigades and detachments to a designated point, stock their arms, deposit their flags, sabers, pistols, &c. and from thence march to their homes under charge of their affairs, superintended by their respective division and corps commanders, officers retaining their side arms and the authorized number of private horses.

2. All public horses and public property of all kinds to be turned over to Staff Officers designated by United States authorities.

3. Such transportation as may be agreed upon as necessary for the transportation of private baggage of the officers will be allowed to accompany the officers to be turned over at the end of the trip to the nearest U.S. Quartermasters, receipts to be taken for same.

4. Couriers and wounded men of the artillery and cavalry whose horses are their own private property will be allowed to retain with them.

5. The surrender of the Army of Northern Virginia shall be construed to mean all the forces operation with that army on the 8th instant, the date of commencement of negotiations for surrender, except such bodies of cavalry as actually made their escape prior to the surrender, and except also such forces of the artillery as were more than twenty (20) miles from Appomattox Courthouse at the time of the surrender on the 9th instant.

Signed General Ulysses S. Grant General Robert E. Lee

It was now a time “to bind up the nation’s wounds” as President Lincoln had said on March 4, just a month earlier, during his second inaugural address. He said the country’s policy should be “with malice toward none, with charity for all.” Unfortunately those who survived Mr. Lincoln did not subscribe to those policies and chose instead to punish the South for its “transgressions.”

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