Appomattox, Virginia – March 1, 2007
The war had dragged on for less time than the current one in Iraq, but had produced 630,000 casualties.
On April 1, 1865, General Robert E. Lee and the Confederate Army of Northern Virginia retreated west from Richmond and Petersburg. He led his army toward Appomattox where three supply trains with rations and ammunition were waiting.
Lee’s army, once invincible, now was “fought to a frazzle”, starving, gaunt and ragged.
The Union cavalry, commanded by George Armstrong Custer, swept around and captured and burned the waiting supply trains on April 8. Lee had one chance left. There was another supply train waiting further west at Lynchburg if he could brush aside Custer’s cavalry.
The Union Army of the James, made a 30 mile march over a 21-hour period and arrived in time to support the cavalry and sandwich Lee’s forces between two superior armies.
The situation was hopeless and Lee accepted U. S. Grant’s terms. The surrender was made in the small town with the curious name “Appomattox Court House”. Gentlemen of the day customarily conducted business in a residence. The Wilmer Mclean residence was selected. At one time, I thought that perhaps the surrender document was taken to the courthouse to be recorded, but this was not the case.
On April 10, 1965, Lee arrived in an immaculate uniform. Grant wore a dirty private’s uniform and, nearly overcome with emotion, found it difficult to come to the point of the meeting. Grant began to discuss their previous encounters in the Mexican-American War. Lee brought the meeting back to the subject.
The surrender terms were generous. Lee’s men were allowed to keep their horses and mules to help with the Spring planting. Officers were allowed to retain sidearms and baggage. 22,000 parole documents were printed and signed, allowing the confederates safe passage though union lines for the long, hungry walks home.
The McLean Home and the town were dedicated after WWII as a National Historic Park. Attending the dedication in 1950 were American generals Robert E. Lee IV and General U. S. Grant, both grandchildren.
Here’s a slideshow…
The remaining Confederate Armies surrendered over the next two months. The last army called it quits in Galveston on June 2nd, 1865