- Historic Sites
Surrender At Appomattox
Cadwallader watches the meeting between the disheveled Grant and the courtly Lee
October 1955 | Volume 6, Issue 6
[Accompanying Grant and his escort as they sought to keep pace with the flying Union columns, Cadwallader sent dispatches to the Herald at every opportunity. On the morning of April 5 the party entered the dilapidated village of Nottaway Court House.]
While Grant was viewing the place a staff officer arrived with dispatches from Sheridan, stating that he had captured a large number of prisoners, artillery, part of a wagon train, had driven the enemy’s advances back with considerable loss.
Soon after receiving this dispatch two trusty scouts arrived from Sheridan with additional news, and urging Gen. Grant to come to that place and capture Lee’s whole army. The general sent a staff officer to read this news from Sheridan at the head of every brigade in the line of march. Although the men had already tramped over twenty miles that day and were hoping to camp for the night, this news encouraged them to make several miles before stopping.
We reached Sheridan’s headquarters [near the town of Jetersville] between eleven and twelve at night and found them in a small log cabin in the middle of a tobacco patch. Some of his staff were at work by candlelight, the general was trying to sleep in a loft above on a clapboard floor, and came scrambling down a ladder as soon as we were announced with no clothing but a shirt, pants and boots. He commenced by pointing out on the maps the position of the enemy at nightfall, the positions held by his own troops, the lines of retreat which Lee was now compelled to adopt along different roads, the combinations and marches which could be made to cut him off, and ended by declaring this to be the final battle ground. Meade’s troops must be forced to certain positions during the night, and then not a man of Lee’s army could escape. He was enthusiastic, positive and not a little profane in expressing his opinions.
Grant was all this time brimming over with quiet enjoyment of Sheridan’s impetuosity, but finally said the Confederate army was certainly in a bad predicament; it would be compelled to abandon its intended line of retreat; that it would unquestionably be further demoralized by this; but if he was in Gen. Lee’s place he thought he could get away with part of his army, and he supposed Gen. Lee would. Sheridan didn’t believe a single regiment could escape and reiterated the opinion many times. Grant said in his quiet, pleasant way that we were doing splendidly; everything was now in our favor; but we must not expect too much. We would do all in our power, but it was too much to expect to capture the whole :Confederate army just then, &c., &c.
Gen. Grant left Jetersville at five o’clock P.M. of April 6th, and rode to Burkeville Junction, where his headquarter train had orders to await him at night. Soon after reaching that place a staff officer arrived from Sheridan with the glorious news of the day’s work at Sayler’s Creek, and the taking of thirteen thousand prisoners, and several hundred wagons.
[On April 7 Grant sent a note to Lee suggesting that further resistance was useless and that the Army of Northern Virginia ought to be surrendered. Lee countered with a note in which he denied that the time for surrender had come, but in which at the same time he asked what terms Grant would offer if surrender did become necessary. Grant replied with a note inviting the surrender of Lee’s army, and offering to meet with him to arrange terms. While an answer was being awaited, the two armies moved toward the west and south, with the Army of the Potomac straining every nerve to head Lee off from any possible avenue of escape. Part of the Army, led by Sheridan’s cavalry, raced to get in front of Lee; the rest, under Meade, followed closely in Lee’s rear.]
We moved leisurely along all day [April 8] expecting every hour to hear something further from Gen. Lee. Nothing came but night, which found us twentyfive miles from the headquarter train; and without any accommodations for ourselves or horses. Gen. Meade established his headquarters for the night near an old country homestead known as the Clifton House, and invited us all to supper. The Clifton House had been deserted on our approach and most of the household effects hauled away. Some old house servants were left behind to look after the premises as well as they could, and from them it was learned that one bed remained standing in good condition in an upper chamber. After supper with Gen. Meade, we all went to the Clifton House. Grant and Rawlins took possession of the one bed, upstairs, and the staff threw themselves on the parlor floor for rest and sleep. I “retired” early and selected the best place on the floor for my own occupancy. With my field-glasses for a pillow I slept soundly till towards midnight, when the challenge of the guard outside awoke us all. The sound of jingling spurs and clanking saber was next heard, and then the announcement: “Dispatches for General Grant.” We were instantly on the alert. When the dispatch had been carried upstairs to Gen. Grant, we threw the parlor door wide open at the foot of the stairway, and it must be confessed, played the part of privileged eavesdroppers.
A light was soon struck upstairs when Rawlins opened and read the dispatch in so loud a tone that we heard the most of it. It ran as follows: