Appomattox, VA High 62 Low 46 Rain
The colors are starting to change here in Virginia. Our road to Appomattox was a beautiful drive.
We arrived in Appomattox on Friday afternoon and just spent the rest of the day relaxing. Saturday we plan to explore Appomattox.
The town is celebrating their Railroad Festival this week-end to commemorate Norfolk & Western Railroad’s donation of the Appomattox Depot to the town in 1973. However, the weather is not cooperating. We woke up Saturday morning to fog, rain, humidity, dampness, mist, and more rain. Still we figured we’d head downtown to check out the parade and whatever else was going on. No place to park anywhere. We turned around and decided it was history time.
In October of 2009, we visited Fort Sumter where the Civil War began. October of 2014 we are where the Civil War ended.
On the morning of April 9, 1865, when General Robert E . Lee realized that the retreat of his beleaguered army had finally been halted, Ulysses S. Grant was riding toward Appomattox Court House. Lee sent a letter to Grant requesting a meeting to discuss his army's surrender. Grant responded to Lee, writing that he would push to the front to meet him.
The location of the meeting was left up to Lee. After reading Grant's letter, Lee rode toward Appomattox Court House. The Union soldier who took the letter from Grant to Lee rode ahead to find a meeting location. Wilmer McLean offered his own home for the meeting.
Lee arrived at the McLean house about one o'clock and took a seat in the parlor. A half hour later, General Grant arrived. Entering the house, Grant greeted Lee in the center of the room. The generals presented a contrasting appearance; Lee in a new uniform and Grant in his mud-spattered field uniform. The two conversed in a very cordial manner for approximately 25 minutes.
This desk is where Lee sat to sign the surrender document.
The subject had not yet gotten around to surrender until finally, Lee, feeling the anguish of defeat, brought Grant's attention to it. Grant, who later confessed to being embarrassed at having to ask for the surrender from Lee, said simply that the terms would be just. The terms would parole officers and enlisted men but required that all Confederate military equipment be relinquished.
When Grant finished writing out the terms of surrender, he handed the terms to Lee who, first donned spectacles used for reading, then quietly looked them over. When he finished reading, Lee looked up at Grant and remarked "This will have a very happy effect on my army." Lee asked if the terms allowed his men to keep their horses, for in the Confederate army men owned their mounts. Lee explained that his men would need these animals to farm once they returned to civilian life. Grant responded that he would order his officers to allow any Confederate claiming a horse or a mule to keep it. General Lee agreed that this concession would go a long way toward promoting healing.
Grant's generosity extended further. When Lee mentioned that his men had been without rations for several days, the Union commander arranged for 25,000 rations to be sent to the hungry Confederates.
After formal copies of the surrender terms, and Lee's acceptance, had been drafted and exchanged, the meeting ended.
The village of Appomattox Court House
Three days later the men of the Army of Northern Virginia marched before the Union Army, laid down their flags, stacked their weapons, and then began the journey back to their homes. For them it was an ending, but for the nation it was a new beginning.
In a war that was marked by such bitter fighting, it is remarkable that it ended so simply. Grant's compassion and generosity did much to allay the emotions of the Confederate troops. As for Robert E. Lee, he realized that the best course was for his men to return home and resume their lives as American citizens.
The character of both Lee and Grant was of such a high order that the surrender of the Army of Northern Virginia has been called "The Gentlemen's Agreement."
“In accordance with the substance of my letter to you of the 8th inst., I propose to receive the surrender of the Army of N. Va. on the following terms, to wit: Rolls of all the officers and men to be made in duplicate. One copy to be given to an officer designated by me, the other to be retained by such officer or officers as you may designate. The officers to give their individual paroles not to take up arms against the Government of the United States until properly exchanged, and each company or regimental commander sign a like parole for the men of their commands. The arms, artillery and public property to be parked and stacked, and turned over to the officer appointed by me to receive them. This will not embrace the side-arms of the officers, not their private horses or baggage. This done, each officer and man will be allowed to return to their homes, not to be disturbed by United States authority so long as thy observe their paroles and the laws in force where they may reside.”