Surrender At Appomattox

PrintPrintEmailEmail 9th April, 1865. General: —I received your note of this morning on the picket line, whither I had come to meet you, and ascertain definitely what terms were embraced in your proposal of yesterday with reference to the surrender of this army. I now ask an interview, in accordance with the offer contained in your letter of yesterday, for that purpose. R. E. Lee, General. Lieut. Gen. U. S. Grant.•

• Except for punctuation, the text of this letter is correct. See Freeman: R. E. Lee , IV, 127.

A blank silence fell on everybody for a minute. No one looked his comrade in the face. Finally Col. Duff, chief of Artillery, sprang upon a log, waved his hat, and proposed three cheers. A feeble hurrah came from a few throats, when all broke down in tears, and but little was said for several minutes. All felt that the war was over. Every heart was thinking of friends—family—home.

Presently Grant turned to Rawlins with a smile and said: “How will that do Rawlins?” to which the latter replied: “I think that will do” laying strong emphasis on the word “that.”

Gen. Ely S. Parker, Chief of the Six Nations, then military Secretary to Gen. Grant, was directed to write the following note to Gen. Lee:

April 9th 1865. Gen. R. E. Lee: — Yours of this date is but this moment (fifty minutes past eleven) received, in consequence of my having passed from Richmond and Lynchburg to the Farmville and Richmond road. Am at this writing about four miles west of Wallace Church, and will push forward to the front for the purpose of meeting you. Notice sent to me on this road where you wish the interview to take place will meet me here.•

• The correct text of this note—approximately the same as in Cadwallader’s version—can be found in the Official Records, Series I, Vol. XLVI, Part 3, p. 665.

After dispatching this last note to Lee, Grant and staff rode on towards the Court House. The firing, which had been heavy through the early forenoon gradually died away, until it wholly ceased. The news of the pending negotiations for the surrender spread rapidly through both armies. As we came out on the open ground near the village [Appomattox], both armies were in plain view. The soldiers of each were in line of battle, and ready to renew the contest on short notice. Officers were galloping in all directions, colors were flying, and it had more the appearance of a grand review of troops, than of two contending hosts. A nearer view, however, disclosed dirty, tattered, ranks of soldiers, none of them well clad, and nearly all officers in fatigue dress.

We struck the upper or south end of the principal [street] of the village, and turned northward to the Court House. Lee’s army still lay north and east of the town. A close lookout was kept for Gen. Lee. When nearly in front of a two-story brick house on the right, or east side of the street, an orderly in rebel uniform was seen holding a couple of horses near the north end of the building. One was a dapple-gray, with a Grimsley saddle and plain single-reined bridle on him, without anything to denote rank.

A staff officer dashed across the open blue grass yard and inquired whose horses they were. The orderly said they belonged to Gen. Lee, who was in the house. The house stood back several rods from the street. The front fence was wholly down, and mostly carried away. So Gen. Grant rode across the yard to the front entrance to a long porch which extended the whole length of the house, dismounted, ascended a half dozen steps onto the porch, and was about to enter the half-open door of a wide hall which separated the ground floor into two suites of rooms, when Gen. Lee met him, exchanged salutations, and conducted him into the front room on the left side of the hall. The staff all remained on their horses. In a few minutes Gen. Grant came to the front, and beckoned to us to come in. All were formally presented to Gen. Lee, and Colonel [Charles] Marshall of Baltimore, one of his Aides, who was the only member of his staff that came with him.

The conversation was short and commonplace from necessity. After the ordinary civilities were exchanged, the military secretaries were set to work to reduce the terms of the capitulation into proper form. This did not take long. The terms being fully understood and agreed to, were written out in duplicate by Col. Ely S. Parker, in whose possession I saw the original, written on yellow manifold paper, in 1890.

The time occupied in making duplicates of the foregoing letters gave an excellent opportunity for studying the two principal actors in the great drama. Gen. Grant had been separated from his headquarter train about forty-eight hours. He was compelled to meet Gen. Lee in the ordinary fatigue blouse, a hat somewhat the worse for wear, without a sword of any kind (as he seldom wore one on a march) and with no insignia of rank excepting the Lieutenant-General’s shoulder straps on the outside of his blouse to designate him to his own troops. His appearance, never imposing, contrasted strongly with that of Gen. Lee. But his quiet, unassuming deportment rarely failed to impress everyone with his force of character, no matter what his surroundings might chance to be.