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Lee's Surrender to Grant
April 1865

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Brady portrait of Lee, April 1865
 image file by Victoria Proctor, 2003

Location: Appomattox County, VA

Description: McLean House
image file by Victoria Proctor  2003 April 9, 1865.   Having arranged a truce and sent notes to Lt. Gen. Ulysses. S. Grant requesting a meeting, Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee awaited his response. Lee dispatched Colonel Charles Marshall to Appomatox Court House to find a suitable building in which he and Grant might meet. The streets were almost deserted and Marshall stopped the first civilian he happened to see -- Wilmer McLean, who had moved to this quiet little place to escape the war after the first battle of Bull Run had been fought across his backyard. McLean reluctantly agreed to loan the army his front parlor.

Shortly after noon, 9 April 1865, Grant's reply came and Lee rode into the village of Appomattox to prepare for Grant's arrival. Lee waited in the parlor.

At about 1:30 p.m. Grant arrived with his staff. The two generals exchanged greetings and small talk, then Lee brought up the object of the meeting. Grant wrote out the surrender terms himself in an order book and handed it to Lee to read. The terms, proposed in an exchange of notes the previous day, were honorable: Confederate officers could keep their side arms and personal possessions; officers and their men who claimed to own their horses could keep them too; and their troops were to be paroled and permitted to return home, not to be disturbed by the United States authorities; arms and supplies were to be given over as captured property. After Lee had read the terms and added an omitted word, he ordered his aide to write a letter of acceptance. This done, at about 3:45 p.m. the generals exchanged documents.

General Lee leaving McLean's House
image file by Victoria Proctor  2003 Riding back to his lines, Lee was swarmed by his adoring troops, many nearly hysterical with grief. Trying to soothe them with quiet phrases--you have done all your duty. Leave the results to God...-- he rode slowly on, followed by many who wept and implored him to say that they should fight on. The next day he issued his eloquent farewell to his army.

On the morning of 11 April 1865, following a spartan breakfast and tearful good-byes from his staff, the general mounted his warhorse, Traveler, and with a Union honor guard left Appomattox for home.

Sources:
Library of Congress, American Memory Collection
National Park Service
The Civil War, American Heritage (Doubleday, 1960)


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