April 09, 2008

Gratuitous Civil War Geek Posting

(That is Col. Walter Taylor, Lee's Aide, standing behind him. On the Union side, the line behind Grant is anchored on the left by "Little Phil" Sheridan and on the right by George Armstrong Custer.)

On this day in 1865, Robert E. Lee surrendered the Army of Northern Virginia to Ulysses S. Grant and the Armies of the Potomac and the James at the McLean Farm in Appomattox, Virginia, after a cat-and-mouse pursuit from the fortifications around Richmond in which Lee had hoped to pick up some badly-needed supplies and escape either to the south or over the Blue Ridge to the Valley of Virginia. Grant's cavalry was able to hold Lee at Appomattox long enough for the Union infantry to come up, thus finally deciding Lee that to continue fighting was hopeless.

Here is Grant's note to Lee proposing the terms of surrender:

From U.S. Grant To R.E. Lee Appomattox Court-House, Virginia April 9, 1865.

General: In accordance with the substance of my letter to you of the 8th instant, I propose to receive the surrender of the army of Northern Virginia 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 to be 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 to 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 officers appointed by me to receive them. This will not embrace the side-arms of the officers nor their private horses or baggage. This done, each officer and man will be allowed to return to his home, not to be disturbed by United States authority so long as they observe their paroles and the laws in force where they may reside.

- U.S. Grant, Lieutenant-General. General R. E. Lee.

And here is Lee's response:

From R.E. Lee To U.S. Grant: Head-Quarters, Army of Northern Virginia April 9, 1865.

General: I received your letter of this date containing the terms of the surrender of the army of Northern Virginia, as proposed by you. As they are substantially the same as those expressed in your letter of the 8th instant, they are accepted. I will proceed to designate the proper officers to carry the stipulations into effect.

R. E. Lee, General. Lieutenant-General U.S. Grant

Grant's terms were later amended to allow the ordinary soldiers to keep their horses and baggage as well. Many historians have commented on the generousity of Grant - essentially turning loose all of Lee's men even though other Confederate armies remained active in the field - as well as on Lee's refusal to abuse such generosity or to allow anyone under his command to do so.

Posted by Robert at April 9, 2008 10:41 AM | TrackBack

"Many historians have commented on the generousity of Grant - essentially turning loose all of Lee's men even though other Confederate armies remained active in the field - as well as on Lee's refusal to abuse such generosity or to allow anyone under his command to do so."

Once upon a time, dear students, there was this concept known as "honour", which you may not have heard of previously, so the best thing I can do is give you an example of two men who possessed it and demonstrated it...

Posted by: Fuinseoig at April 9, 2008 11:13 AM

I cannot recall the name of the gentleman whose home was used for the meeting between Lee and Grant to sign the terms of surrender but as I dis-remember, he had been caught up in a early battle of the war and moved his family to Appomattox to get out of the line of fire, only to end up smack in the middle of the end of it.
As I DO recall, after Lee left the meeting his home was literally stripped to the bare walls by Union Officers who wanted a souvenir of the event.
Some things NEVER change.

Posted by: Tbird at April 9, 2008 12:03 PM

Tbird, I have that info somewhere, trust me.

Happy Surrender Day!

Posted by: GroovyVic at April 9, 2008 12:25 PM

Tbird--the house was owned by Wilbur McLean who also owned a farm in Manassas over which part of the First Battle of Bull Run was fought. McLean could say the war started in earnest in his front yard and ended in his parlor.

Lee went on to become president of Washington College in Lexington (now Washington and Lee University). He would not allow anyone to speak an unkind word about General Grant in his presence.

Posted by: LMC at April 9, 2008 12:27 PM

After that long chase, the Army of Northern Virginia was reduced to raggedly-clad, mostly barefoot men with few supplies and less ammunition. Grant was fully aware of this, as he ordered rations and blankets issued to the starving southerners.

Posted by: mojo at April 9, 2008 02:12 PM

Thank's LMC. The details had escaped me.
As a Southern I have always admired Lee but it irritated some of my kinfolk that my most admired Civil War general was Sherman. My Grandfather's brother was a real Civil War buff and spent some time trying to convince of the errors of my ways. Finally I told him that yes, Lee was a great general but he made one mistake. Lee spent four years protecting Virginia and by doing so lost the Confederacy. Boy, did that send him up the wall. Anyway, my G-uncle passed some years ago and I think he forgave me that remark before before he died...But, then again...maybe not....

Posted by: Tbird at April 9, 2008 05:57 PM