The end of the War Between the States was at hand…
In the spring of 1865, after four years of war on American soil, General Ulysses Grant was closing in on General Robert E. Lee and his Army of Northern Virginia. At this time, Lee’s army was still a Confederate force to be reckoned with, but just barely.
As Grant continued, slowly and doggedly, to take control of roads and thus supply lines, Lee experienced increasing numbers of deserters, which steadily weakened his forces. Grant knew and Lee knew that Grant knew that Lee needed to hook up with General Joseph Johnston’s army to the south. But the way was not an easy one to traverse.
The Union army met the Confederate army at the Battle of Ft. Stedman at Petersburg, Virginia in late March. This was Lee’s final offensive, but his casualties came at too high of a price to keep going much longer. Still, Lee hung on.
The Battle of Five Forks in Dinwiddie County, Virginia followed on April 1st. Again, Lee’s troops sustained considerable loss. So Lee retreated from the Richmond and Petersburg areas with Union troops hot on his heels.
Lee’s troop rallied for a bit, but the Federal army came on. By this time, Lee’s men numbered around 30,000. Lee met the Union forces for a final confrontation in the Appomattox Campaign. Lee’s intent was to make a hard march to join forces with Johnston, but General Sheridan had other ideas. He caught up with Lee on April 6th for the Battle at Sayler’s Creek [sic per Gallagher, The Great Courses, 2000).
Lee’s troops suffered great losses through death and capture. Many of his men were too hungry to continue, and others simply threw down their weapons and walked away. Then the Union army maneuvered into position in front of the Confederates, and there was no place left for Lee to go.
“I would rather die a thousand deaths [than surrender],” Lee said (Gallagher, 2000). Nevertheless, Lee sent the message for terms of surrender to Grant.
Lee and Grant met in the parlor of Wilmer McLean’s red brick house in the small Virginia village of Appomattox Court House on the afternoon of April 9, 1865 to sign formal surrender documents. When Lee offered his sword to Grant, Grant refused it.
|Signing the surrender from a contemporary sketch - eyewitnesstohistory.com|
On the terms of surrender...
‘…the terms of surrender were simple. Confederate officers could keep their side arms [and swords]. All soldiers would be fed and allowed to keep their horses and mules. None would be tried for treason. “Let all the men who claim to own a horse or mule take the animals home with them to work their little farms,” Grant said. “This will do much toward conciliating our people,” replied Lee.
As Lee rode off, Union troops started to celebrate the Union victory, but Grant silenced them. “The war is over,” he said. “The rebels are our countrymen again.” After the surrender, Lee returned to his men and quietly told them: “I have done for you all that it was in my power to do. You have done all your duty. Leave the result to God. Go to your homes and resume your occupations. Obey the laws and become as good citizens as you were soldiers.”’ (Boyer 394-395)
|Chamberlain at Lee's Surrender - Kaye Spencer's personal collection|
On April 12th, Confederate soldiers formally stacked arms at Appomattox Court House, but Lee and Grant were no longer there. However, General Joshua Chamberlain of Gettysburg’s Little Round Top fame was on hand for the surrender.
But the word was slow in spreading…
- On April 26th, General Joseph Johnston surrendered to General Sherman a Durham Station, North Carolina.
- On May 4th, General Richard Taylor surrendered at Citronelle, Alabama.
- On May 10th, Jefferson Davis was captured in Irwinville, Georgia. He was imprisoned at Fortress Monroe for two years. He was never tried for treason.
- On May 13th, the last land battle was fought at Palmito Ranch near Brownsville, Texas.
Until next month on the 2nd Monday for another episode of 'Today in U.S. History',
Writing through history one romance upon a time
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*Boyer, Paul. American Nation. Austin: Holt, Rineholt and Winston, 2000.
*Gallagher, Gary. The American Civil War, Part 4, Lecture 46, "Petersburg to Appomattox", The Great Courses. Chantilly: The Teaching Company, 2000. DVD
*"Surrender at Appomattox, 1865," EyeWitness to History, www.eyewitnesstohistory.com (1997).
*Wikipedia Contributors. "Battle of Appomattox Court House." Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia, 27 Mar 2018. Web. 08 Apr 2018. <https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Battle_of_Appomattox_Court_House>