During the night, after the vanguard was moved forward to meet anticipated attack,1 the reflection of the camp fires on the clouds and the mutter of moving men indicated the massing of a large force on the Confederate front and left.2 Lee, with his usual care, reasoned that this might call for a change in the plan that had been worked out at the council a few hours before, so he ordered the chief of the cavalry corps to feel out the strength of the enemy and, if need be, to suspend his advance until daylight, when he could better ascertain the situation.3 Then Lee sought a little sleep.
Shortly after 1 o'clock, from the road nearby, there came the weary staccato of the march. It was not noisy, for the men were too tired and too depressed to indulge in banter. So nearly silent were the passing troops that it was impossible to tell to what command they belonged. But presently through the darkness came a voice and a scrap of doggerel:
"The race is not to them that's got
The longest legs to run
Nor the battle to that people
That shoots the biggest gun."
The intonation was unmistakable, and the words were familiar in the army as part of the so‑called "Texas Bible." The elocutionist who was reciting the lines for his solace must be a member of the famous old "Hood's brigade" of the First Corps. Longstreet's men evidently were going forward unseen, to close the rear in the final attempt to break through.4 If General Lee heard the p118 soldier, as at least one other at his bivouac did, he may have remembered how he had written Mrs. Lee in kindred, if nobler words, when the last Federal offensive was in the making, "trusting to a merciful God, who does not always give the battle to the strong, I pray we may not be overwhelmed. I shall . . . endeavor to do my duty and fight to the last."5
Soon the groups among the trees were all awake. The younger men stirred up the fire and, from a single tin cup, performed their toilet and ate, in turn, a gruel of meal and water that each mixed and warmed over the burning sticks. General Lee dressed himself faultlessly, and put on his handsomest sword and his sash of deep, red silk, but he was not seen eating any breakfast. Perhaps he had none. "I have probably to be General Grant's prisoner and thought I must make my best appearance," he later told General Pendleton, when that officer came up and expressed his surprise at Lee's attire. Lee thoughtfully urged the artillerist to get some rest and in the morning to be guided by circumstances.6
Then, about 3 o'clock, Lee started to the front, where already the guns were announcing Gordon's preparations for an advance. Lee had not far to go, for what was left of the Army of Northern Virginia was now on and alongside a single road, the van not more than •four miles, at that hour, from the rearguard.7 He had less than 8000 armed infantry left in the ranks,8 though other thousands, too exhausted to bear them, had stuck their guns into the ground with the bayonets and were dragging slowly about, looking for food,9 or were hanging to the wagons, now reduced by capture and loss to 744.10 Gordon's corps, 7500 on March 25, was now about 2000.11 Field's division, the largest in the army and the one that had sustained the least fighting on the retreat, had present for duty only 3865 of an "aggregate present and absent" of 11,017. The number of Field's men reported "absent in C. S. lines" that day, 4497, was larger than the number present for duty.12 Pickett had only about 60 armed men, though he subsequently p119 reported about 740 others present at Appomattox without their muskets.13 The artillerists were 2073 officers and men, with 61 guns and 13 caissons.14 These had an average of 93 rounds of ammunition,15 which the chief ordnance officer reported "were the sole dependence in the State of Virginia."16 The cavalry were between 2100 and 2400.17
As Fitz Lee had availed himself of the discretion the commanding general had given him, and had delayed his advance until nearly daylight, it was 5 o'clock when the attack opened,18 •about half a mile west of the courthouse.19 When Lee arrived in rear of Gordon's command the battle was on, the artillery was in action, and the countryside was echoing with volleys that must have sounded much more like those of infantry than like those of cavalry. There was a fog, however, that concealed the landscape, though Lee was on high ground. The course of the action could not be seen. Lee waited until perhaps 8 o'clock, and then, as the sound of battle was not receding and no word had come from Gordon, he sent Colonel Venable to study the situation and to ask what might be expected.
Venable found that this had happened: Gordon had gone forward, had passed through the village of Appomattox Courthouse, and had soon found a breastwork across the road with Federals behind it. He had not known whether they were foot or dismounted horse,20 but after a short pause, he had attacked, with the cavalry on his right and with the skeleton divisions of Johnson, Grimes, Evans, and Walker in order to the centre and left. They had echeloned by the right flank, had advanced quickly, had driven the enemy, had captured two guns, had cleared the road, and then had wheeled by the left flank into line of battle to cover the passage of the wagons, as Lee had directed. Scarcely had this been done than the cavalry had discovered a heavy force of infantry, concealed in a woodland in rear of Gordon's right flank. The infantry p120 had soon moved, with Union troopers in support, against the Confederate cavalry connecting with Gordon's right and had driven the mounted Confederates back. The enemy in the wood, speedily identified as infantry, had advanced by the left flank in the direction of the courthouse. The Federals' purpose seemed to be to close on Gordon's rear and to cut him off from Longstreet, who had now come up as far as the crowded condition of the road permitted, and was on the other side of the Appomattox, a small stream at that point.21 Simultaneously with this move on the Confederate right, the enemy's cavalry had moved toward Gordon's left and had begun to envelop that flank. General Long and Colonel Thomas Carter with their guns had been able to hold up this advance until General Evans could about-face part of his command and go to meet the approaching blue-coats — go, ominously enough, in the direction exactly opposite that of the original advance.22
This was the situation explained to Venable.23 He surveyed it hastily and soon was back with Gordon's report of it: "Tell General Lee," Gordon said, "I have fought my corps to a frazzle, and I fear I can do nothing unless I am heavily supported by Longstreet's corps."24
Lee heard in silence this report, which was the more conclusive because Gordon was one of the most daring leaders in the Army of Northern Virginia. If Gordon could "do nothing," unless "heavily supported by Longstreet's corps," which was already holding off two corps on Lee's rear, then . . . "Then," said Lee, oblivious to the presence of his staff officers about him, "there is nothing left me to do but to go and see General Grant, and I would rather die a thousand deaths."25
p121 His words meant the end! When Lee, the resourceful, the ever-striking, saw nothing ahead but surrender, who else could cherish hope longer? Restraint was broken under the weight of the tragedy. Men spoke in the grief of their hearts. "Oh, General," said some one who doubtless had proudly fed his soul on the thought that the Confederates, like Washington and his comrades-in‑arms, had been writing the story of a new nation, "Oh, General, what will history say of the surrender of the army in the field?"
"Yes," answered Lee, simply, "I know they will say hard things of us: They will not understand how we were overwhelmed by numbers. But that is not the question, Colonel: The question is, is it right to surrender this army. If it is right, then I will take all the responsibility."26
But he did not take it as calmly as his brave answer indicated. He looked over the field, about the time the fog was lifting, and he exclaimed as though he were tempted to a desperate act: "How easily I could be rid of this, and be at rest! I have only to ride along the line and all will be over!" His voice was almost hopeless, and he was scarcely able to control his feelings, but he stopped and gripped himself and, after an inward struggle, said with a deep sigh: "But it is our duty to live. What will become of the women and children of the South if we are not here to protect them?"27
After a little, he sent a messenger for Longstreet, and, by a dying fire of fence rails, he waited for "Old Pete" to arrive. When Longstreet rode up, Lee saluted him, but he had a look of deep depression that Longstreet observed. Lee told the chief of the First Corps how matters stood, with Gordon blocked, no food at hand and the rearguard facing a large part of Meade's army, and he ended with the statement that he did not think it was possible to get on. What was Longstreet's view? It was quickly given in a counter-question: Would the sacrifice of the Army of Northern Virginia help the cause elsewhere? Lee did not think so. Then, answered Longstreet, your situation speaks for itself.28
Mahone was nearby, shivering. Lee asked for his opinion. Mahone stirred up the fire and took pains to explain that he was p122 a-tremble because he was cold, rather than scared. After a number of questions, he stated the same conclusion as Longstreet.29
Soon Alexander appeared. Lee called to him, walked over to a felled oak, peeled off the bark, sat down, took out his map from his breast pocket and said to the young chief of artillery of the First Corps, who had not yet learned of Gordon's plight or of Lee's decision, "Well, we have come to the junction,30 and they seem to be here ahead of us. What have we got to do today?"
Alexander answered that the men of the First Corps were still in condition to fight and were ready to do their part if Lee saw fit to try and cut his way through the Federals.
"I have left only two divisions, Field's and Mahone's, sufficiently organized to be relied upon," Lee answered. "all the rest have been broken and routed and can do little good. Those divisions are now scarcely 4000 apiece, and that is far too little to meet the force now in our front."
Thereupon Alexander proposed, as an alternative to surrender, that the men take to the woods with their arms, under orders to report to governors of their respective states.
"What would you hope to accomplish by that?" Lee queried.
It might prevent the surrender of the other armies, Alexander argued, because if the Army of Northern Virginia laid down its arms, all the others would follow suit, whereas, if the men reported to the governors, each state would have a chance of making an honorable peace. Besides, Alexander went on, the men had a right to ask that they be spared the humiliation of asking terms of Grant, only to be told that U. S. "Unconditional Surrender" Grant would live up to the name he had earned at Fort Donelson and at Vicksburg.
Lee saw such manifest danger in this proposal to become guerillas that he began to question Alexander: "If I should take your advice, how many men do you suppose would get away?"
"Two-thirds of us. We would be like rabbits and partridges in the bushes and they could not scatter to follow us."
"I have not over 15,000 muskets left," Lee explained. "Two-thirds of them divided among the states, even if all could be collected, would be too small a force to accomplish anything. All p123 could not be collected. Their homes have been overrun, and many would go to look after their families.
"Then, General," he reasoned further, "you and I as Christian men have no right to consider only how this would affect us. We must consider its effect on the country as a whole. Already it is demoralized by the four years of war. If I took your advice, the men would be without rations and under no control of officers. They would be compelled to rob and steal in order to live. They would become mere bands of marauders, and the enemy's cavalry would pursue them and overrun many sections they may never have occasion to visit. We would bring on a state of affairs it would take the country years to recover from. And, as for myself, you young fellows might go bushwhacking, but the only dignified course for me would be to go to General Grant and surrender myself and take the consequences of my acts."
Lee paused, and then he added, outwardly hopeful, on the strength of Grant's letter of the previous night, whatever his inward misgivings, "But I can tell you one thing for your comfort. Grant will not demand an unconditional surrender. He will give us as good terms as this army has the right to demand, and I am going to meet him in the rear at 10 A.M. and surrender the army on the condition of not fighting again until exchanged."31
Alexander went away a humbler man. "I had not a single word to say in reply," he wrote years afterwards. "He had answered my suggestion from a plane so far above it, that I was ashamed of having made it."32
It was soon after General Lee had been talking to Longstreet and to Mahone33 that his adjutant reported. Taylor had returned to the army on the 3d, after his marriage in Richmond the preceding night, and he had been busy with a thousand duties on the train. The evening before he had been sent off to park the trains and he had just now rejoined the headquarters staff.
"Well, Colonel," said Lee, in his usual formula, "what are we to do?"
p124 Taylor expressed the belief that if they rid themselves of the trains, they might still escape.
"Yes," said Lee, "perhaps we could; but I have had a conference with these gentlemen around me, and they agree that the time has come for capitulation."
"Well, sir, I can only speak for myself; to me any other fate is preferable —"
"Such is my individual way of thinking," Lee broke in.
"But," Taylor added, "of course, General, it is different with you, you had to think of these brave men and decide not only for yourself but for them."
"Yes," replied Lee, "it would be useless and therefore cruel to provoke the further effusion of blood, and I have arranged to meet General Grant with a view to surrender and wish you to accompany me."34
Lee seems to have unburdened himself somewhat by talking in this frank manner with his associates-in‑arms, but he was still abstracted and manifestly sick at heart when he mounted Traveller at 8:30 or about that time.35 He was going to meet Grant, and if the Federal chief was not willing to discuss a general peace, then Lee would have to ask terms for the Army of Northern Virginia alone. Those terms were not to be negotiated: if his adversary so willed, they could be imposed.
The rendezvous that Lee had set with Grant, in his note of the previous evening, was on the old state road, between the picket lines. It was in that direction he now went, accompanied by Taylor, Marshall, and Sergeant Tucker, chief courier of the Third Corps.36 They passed along the road where Longstreet's corps had halted, for the last time in its famous career, because it had found the way ahead blocked by the wagon train that had stopped when Gordon's advance had encountered the enemy in superior force. Soon the four riders came to a stout breastwork of logs that the Confederate rearguard had erected across and on either side of the road to hold off the Federals, whose appearance was expected at any time. The men recognized Lee and cheered him as he passed through their line.
The courier then went ahead with his white flag. Marshall and p125 Taylor followed, and, a little behind them, Lee. It was, as far as the records show, the first time during the war between the states that Lee personally had ever appeared for any purpose under a flag of truce. The little group of horsemen had gone •a little more than half a mile37 and had just turned a bend in the road, when they saw a line of Federal skirmishers approaching them. Marshall immediately went out in the expectation of meeting General Grant and his staff. Instead, after a little, the skirmishers halted and a single Union officer and his flag-bearer came forward. The officer proved to be Lieutenant-Colonel Charles A. Whittier, Assistant Adjutant General on the staff of Major General A. A. Humphreys, commander of the II Corps. Colonel Whittier had no verbal message from General Grant and no instructions to conduct the party to a meeting place. Instead, he merely brought a letter, which he delivered. He would wait, he said, in case Lee wished to send an answer. Marshall jogged back and gave the dispatch to Lee, who opened it and read as follows:
Headquarters Armies of the United States
General R. E. Lee,
Commanding C. S. Armies:
General: Your note of yesterday is received. As I have no authority to treat on the subject of peace the meeting proposed for 10 A.M. today could lead to no good. I will state, however, General, that I am equally anxious for peace with yourself, and the whole North entertain the same feeling. The terms upon which peace can be had are well understood. By the South laying down their arms they will hasten that most desirable event, save thousands of human lives, and hundreds of millions of property not yet destroyed. Sincerely hoping that all our difficulties may be settled without the loss of another life, I subscribe myself,
Very respectfully, your obedient servant,
U. S. Grant,
Lieutenant-General, U. S. Army38
p126 There was not to be even the poor comfort of an approach to the surrender of the army of Northern Virginia through a discussion of peace on all the fronts! The humiliation must be complete. Lee had to make a formal and unqualified offer to yield up the arms of his men. But he did not hesitate a moment. Having concluded that it was his duty to prevent further bloodshed in his army, he faced that duty precisely as he met any other, in a determination to do his best for the soldiers, without any evasion or attempt to shield himself. He bade Colonel Marshall get out pencil and paper so that he could dictate a note in which he would try to insure for the soldiers the generous terms of parole that the Federal commander had offered in his note of the 8th, though Grant had not repeated them in this new letter.
This omission gave Lee much concern. Disappointed that Grant had not come to meet him, he began to be apprehensive that his adversary had refused to appear because he now felt that he had the army virtually surrounded and could impose harsher conditions. Lee's misgivings may have been increased, when at that very moment, there came a roar of artillery from the front, as if the enemy were attacking. He started a reply, which Marshall took down in pencil on a broad sheet of paper, but while he was dictating there came a rush of horses' hoofs and a one-armed man in gray dashed from around the bend and went a hundred yards beyond them before he could pull in his mount. Lee knew the horses of most of his officers and he probably had no difficulty in identifying the superb animal that now came heavily back, half dead from the wild speed to which the officer on her back had forced her.
"What is it, what is it?" Lee cried to the soldier, whom he recognized. "Oh, why did you do it? You have killed your beautiful horse!"39
The officer, Colonel John Haskell, explained that Longstreet had dispatched him — telling him to kill his mare if need be — to say that Fitz Lee had just sent word he had found a road by which the army could escape. Lee either did not credit the report or else did not believe the infantry could safely follow where the cavalry might go. He went on with his letter, which was hurriedly p127 finished, as the sound of firing from the front grew ominously:
April 9th, 1865
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 request an interview in accordance with the offer contained in your letter of yesterday for that purpose.
Your obt. servt
R. E. Lee
Lt. Gen U. S. Grant
Comdg U. S. Armies
Lee received the text from Marshall and signed it in a large, bold hand, probably because he did not have his glasses on.40 He did not wait for Marshall to make a copy of this letter,41 but he took time to direct his secretary to express to General Grant, through Colonel Whittier, his regret at not seeing him.
As Marshall carried the letter to Whittier, who was waiting a short distance away, he saw the Federal skirmishers again advancing. He knew that if they went forward they would soon strike the Confederate rearguard, and that a needless battle would occur, so he explained to Whittier the purport of the letter and told him he hoped hostilities might be suspended until the communication reached Grant. Whittier took the letter and went off, with a promise to bring an answer from his commanding general.42 Lee waited in the road. Probably at that time, while Whittier was within the Union lines, there came another message from the front: Fitz Lee reported his previous information erroneous. There was no road by which the infantry could get away.43 Lee then remembered he had omitted to notify Gordon that he intended to ask for a suspension of hostilities and that he had failed to authorize him or Longstreet to send out a flag of truce, pending the surrender. It must have been by the courier who brought the second message from Fitz Lee that the commanding p128 general sent back word to his corps commanders to seek an armistice.44
Colonel Whittier soon returned and said he was directed to state that the attack had been ordered and his commanding officer had no discretion but must deliver it. A letter could not reach General Grant, he explained, in time for orders to be received from him before the hour set for the attack.45 Marshall expressed his regret at this and asked Whittier to request his superior to read Lee's letter to General Grant, as he felt that, in the circumstances, the commanding officer might feel justified in suspending the order and in avoiding a useless sacrifice of life.46 Whittier disappeared again with this appeal.
Lee waited with his companions. Time passed. The Federal skirmishers drew closer. A flag of truce came out from the Federal lines with a request that the Confederates withdraw, as the advance was under way and the attack was about to be delivered. It was probably through this messenger that Lee sent another note to General Grant. This, like the other, he dictated to Colonel Marshall and signed in pencil. It read:
9th April 1865
I ask a suspension of hostilities pending the adjustment of the terms of the surrender of this army, in the interview requested in my former communication today.
Your obt. servt.,
R. E. Lee
Lt. Gen. U. S. Grant
Comdg. U. S. Army.
p129 Although the Federals still came steadily forward, Lee waited under the flag of truce for an answer. Determined that not another life should be lost if he could prevent it, he remained where he was until the head of the Federal column was plainly visible not more than one hundred yards away. Then came a peremptory warning that he must withdraw immediately as the advance could not be halted. Very reluctantly, and apprehensive that this meant a waste of life in another battle and harsher terms of surrender, Lee turned his horse's head and rode back up the road and through the Confederate rearguard, where he found Longstreet awaiting the Federals' attack. The wagon trains had been parked, and part of the troops from the rear of the First Corps had been moved forward and had formed a line of battle behind Gordon's command and to the east of the north fork of the Appomattox, so that Longstreet's troops were now equally prepared for attack from in front or from behind.47
Lee remained near the rear of Longstreet's position until after 11 o'clock, when it seemed that the opening of the attack was only a matter of moments, though the Confederate guns were silent and the infantry were under orders not to fire. Just when it appeared certain that the action would open, Colonel Whittier appeared again under a white flag opposite Field's division. He brought a note from Meade, the text of which, unfortunately, has been lost. As far as it can be reconstructed inferentially, the note expressed agreement to an informal truce on Meade's lines for an hour and suggested that Lee might be able to communicate more quickly with Grant if he sent a duplicate of his letter through some other part of the line.
With this assurance and suggestion, Lee rode back toward the front. He stopped in a small apple orchard at the foot of the hill and a short distance in advance of the line of battle that had been drawn up facing westward. From this point Lee now sent Grant his third note of the day, written, as were the others, by Colonel Marshall in pencil and signed by the General. Here it is:
Hd Qrs A N Va
9th April 1865
General, I sent a communication to you today from the picket p130 line whither I had gone in hopes of meeting you in pursuance of the request contained in my letter of yesterday. Maj. Gen. Meade informs me that it would probably expedite matters to send a duplicate through some other part of your lines. I therefore request an interview at such time and place as you may designate, to discuss the terms of the surrender of this army in accordance with your offer to have such an interview contained in your letter of yesterday.
Your obt servt
R. E. Lee
Lt. Gen. U. S. Grant,
Comdr. U. S. Armies.
If this letter went even further than did Lee's earlier communication requesting an interview, it was because his experience of the morning had made him fearful of sterner terms and because, in the second place, the desperate situation had become so much worse that his army could easily be destroyed, no matter how dearly the men sold their lives. Unknown to the commanding general, Fitz Lee had gone off with nearly all the cavalry, determined that he would not share in the surrender.49 Gordon's troops had withdrawn from their advanced position50 and had fallen back across the north fork of the Appomattox51 to rally on Longstreet. As the Federals had pressed closely in on the south and had worked around to the northwest, what was left of the Army of Northern Virginia was almost enveloped. That the enemy did not proceed to attack was due to the fact that an informal truce in front, similar to the one in the rear, had been allowed by Sheridan and Ord.52
Lee was very tired after the strain of the morning, and he now stretched himself out under the apple-tree on a pile of fence rails that Alexander53 had arranged for him and had covered with blankets.
From this position Lee saw some Confederate troops crossing p131 a nearby creek, and he inquired who they were. He was told they were his engineer regiment, commanded by his young friend and former staff officer, Colonel T. M. R. Talcott. Lee sent for Talcott and told him that he considered it his duty to go to see General Grant and to stop further sacrifice of life.54 At Taylor's instance, as a crowd was beginning to gather, Talcott threw out a cordon around the tree.
Very soon there arrived under a flag of truce Brigadier General James W. Forsyth, Sheridan's chief of staff, who came to say that the Union cavalry commander was doubtful of his authority to recognize the informal truce and wished to communicate with General Meade. As the route through the Confederate army was the shortest, he requested permission to go that way. Lee acquiesced and sent Colonel Taylor to accompany him — the Federal Assistant Adjutant General with his own A. A. G., the strictest military etiquette.55
To Longstreet, who came up about this time, Lee confided his fear that Grant might be disposed to demand stiffer terms, inasmuch as he had declined those offered the previous day. Longstreet did not think so. He had known Grant intimately before the war and he told his chief that the Federal general would impose only such terms as Lee himself would in reversed circumstances. Lee did not seem altogether satisfied, and continued to converse with Longstreet in broken sentences for some time. They were still together when Forsyth and Taylor returned from their ride to Meade's lines in the rear. Forsyth doubtless brought verbal assurance and may have transmitted General Meade's definite written acceptance of a truce until 2 o'clock.56
And now, about 12:15 P.M., with another flag of truce, came a single staff officer, accompanied by a Confederate escort, probably Colonel John Fairfax.57 He rode from the front, the direction whence Grant's messenger was expected to arrive. His mission was correctly guessed from the moment of his appearance.
p132 "General," said Longstreet to Lee, as the rider approached, "unless he offers us honorable terms, come back and let us fight it out."
Lee said nothing, but in his bearing there was something — the prospect of another fight perhaps — that made Longstreet think he had heartened his chief.58
Lee sat up as the Federal officer dismounted. In the eyes of his companions he had never looked grander than at that moment.59
"General Lee," said the officer's escort, "allow me to introduce you to Colonel Babcock."
Headquarters Armies of the United States
General R. E. Lee,
Commanding C. S. Army:
Your note of this date is but this moment (11:50 A.M.) received. In consequence of my having passed from the Richmond and Lynchburg road to the Farmville and Lynchburg road I am at this writing about four miles west of Walker's church, and will push forward to the front for the purpose of meeting you. Notice sent on this road where you wish the interview to take place will meet me.
Very respectfully, your obedient servant,
U. S. Grant,
There was at least no suggestion in this letter of other terms than those that had been offered the day before! Babcock supplemented its considerate language with a very courteous message: he had been sent by General Grant, he said, to make any arrangement General Lee might desire for a conference, whether within the Union or within the Confederate lines.
p133 Grant already had offered, it will be remembered, to have the surrender arranged through officers designated for that purpose, in order that the Confederate leader might be spared humiliation, but Lee probably never thought of passing on to others this unpleasant task. He meant literally what he had said to Alexander — that he would go to General Grant and surrender himself and take the consequences of his acts.63 Marshall thought that Lee subconsciously was impelled to this personal surrender by reason of his father's unfavorable reference in his Memoirs to Cornwallis's failure to appear on the day of the surrender at Yorktown.64
Making ready to proceed, Lee took from his breast pocket the folded map with which he had fought the campaign and gave it to Colonel Venable, who, a little later, burnt it. Lee questioned, also, whether the truce that had been granted would last long enough to cover the necessary interview. Babcock met this by writing in Grant's name a dispatch to Meade to continue the truce until further orders.65
On such a mission as he was now about to begin, Lee naturally would be accompanied by his adjutant general and by his military secretary, but Colonel Taylor had no heart for being present at a surrender. He begged off on the ground that he already had ridden twice through the lines that morning.66 Lee excused him with his usual consideration for the feelings of others. In the company of Marshall, Babcock, and Tucker, the daring orderly, Lee started up the road, and beyond the thin and silent line of battle on the hillside.67 At the stream, Traveller wanted to drink. Lee waited until his faithful mount had his fill.68 Then he went on.
How often he had ridden that strong steed and in scenes how various! Up Malvern Hill, when the very earth seemed alive with the crawling wounded; over Thoroughfare Gap while "Stonewall's" guns were growling, and after the spinning wheels p134 of the pursuing guns at Second Manassas; across South Mountain; among the bloody ridges of the Antietam; with the mists enveloping him at Fredericksburg; confident and calm when the cheering thousands acclaimed him in the woods of Chancellorsville; out on the hill at Gettysburg; along the mournful byways of the Wilderness; down the Telegraph road toward Cold Harbor; over the James and over the same Appomattox, sullen and tawny, at Petersburg. Jackson had ridden with him, the battle light in his eyes, the laughing Stuart, the nervous Hill, the diligent Pender, the gallant Rodes — all of them dead now, and he alone, save for those silent companions, was on his last ride as commander of the Army of Northern Virginia. Thirty-nine years of devotion to military duty had come to this . . . and this, too, was duty.
As the little cavalcade passed toward the village of Appomattox, Lee had to arouse himself and arrange the details: Grant had left it to him to select the place of meeting. Would Marshall go ahead and find a suitable house? Obediently, the colonel trotted off. Lee remained with Babcock. They did not talk — how could they?69
After a while the orderly returned to say that Colonel Marshall had found a room for the conference. Lee went on and, under the soldier's guidance, drew rein beyond the courthouse in the yard of a house on the left-hand side of the road to Lynchburg. The residence belonged to Major Wilmer McLean, who, by the oddest chance, had owned the farm on Bull Run where, in the first battle of that name, the initial clash had occurred. Major McLean had removed from that closed position and had purchased a property at Appomattox — only to find that the march of the armies he had sought to avoid was now about to end, as it had begun, at his door.70
Lee dismounted in the yard and after the orderly took Traveller, he walked toward the wide steps that led to the covered porch which ran the whole width of the house. Entering the central hall, at the top of the steps, he turned into the front room on his p135 left, a typical parlor of a middle-class Virginia home.71 Colonel Marshall went with him. Colonel Babcock accompanied Lee, also, with the explanation that as General Grant would soon arrive, the orderly could easily direct him to the place. Lee walked diagonally across the room and sat down close to a small table in the corner beyond the front window and farthest from the hall.72 He put his hat and gauntlets on the table, and there he waited. Babcock and Marshall remained in the room and, no doubt, seated themselves at his invitation.
Half an hour passed, perhaps the longest half hour in Lee's whole life. If there was any conversation, it was in snatches and was slow, labored, and vague.73 About 1:30 o'clock there was a clatter in the road, the sound of the approach of a large body of mounted men. They drew nearer, they halted, they dismounted. Some of them climbed the steps. Babcock went to the door and opened it. A man of middle height, slightly stooped and heavily bearded, came in alone. He was dressed for the field, with boots and breeches mud-bespattered.74 He took off his yellow thread gloves as he stepped forward. Lee had never seen him to remember him but he knew who he was and, rising with Marshall, he started across the room to meet General Grant. They shook hands quietly with brief greetings. Then Grant sat down at the table in the middle of the room, and Lee returned to his place. Marshall stood to the left and somewhat behind him. Babcock had a few whispered words with Grant, then went from the room and out on the porch. He soon was back, followed by a full dozen Federal officers, Sheridan and Ord among them. These newcomers arranged themselves behind Grant and in sight of Lee as quietly as boots and spurs and clanking swords permitted. Grant made no reference to their coming. Lee showed no sign of resentment at their presence.
The conversation began: "I met you once before, General Lee," Grant said in his normal tones,75 "while we were serving in Mexico, p136 when you came over from General Scott's headquarters to visit Garland's brigade, to which I then belonged. I have always remembered your appearance, and I think I should have recognized you anywhere."
"Yes," answered Lee quietly, "I know I met you on that occasion, and I have often thought of it and tried to recollect how you looked, but I have never been able to recall a single feature."
Mention of Mexico aroused many memories. Grant pursued them with so much interest and talked of them so readily that the conversation went easily on until the Federal was almost forgetting what he was about.76 Lee felt the weight of the moment and brought Grant back with words that seemed to come naturally, yet must have cost him anguish that cannot be measured.
"I suppose, General Grant," he said, "that the object of our present meeting is fully understood. I asked to see you to ascertain upon what terms you would receive the surrender of my army."
Grant did not change countenance or exhibit the slightest note of exultation in his reply. "The terms I propose are those substantially in my letter of yesterday — that is, the officers and men surrendered to be paroled and disqualified from taking up arms again until properly exchanged, and all arms, ammunition and supplies to be delivered up as captured property."
Lee nodded an assent that meant more than his adversary realized. The phantom of a proud army being marched away to prison disappeared as Grant spoke, and the hope Lee had first expressed to Taylor that morning was confirmed. "Those," said he, "are about the conditions I expected would be proposed."
"Yes," Grant answered, "I think our correspondence indicated pretty clearly the action that would be taken at our meeting; and I hope it may lead to a general suspension of hostilities and be the means of preventing any further loss of life."
That, of course, was a theme that Lee's conception of his duty as a soldier would not permit him to discuss. It was his to obey orders and to direct the forces in the field. The civil authorities had the sole power, he held, to make peace of the sort General Grant had in mind. So he merely inclined his head again.
Grant talked on of peace and its prospects. Lee waited and p137 then, courteously, but in a manifest desire to finish the business at hand, he said: "I presume, General Grant, we have both carefully considered the proper steps to be taken, and I would suggest that you commit to writing the terms you have proposed, so that they may be formally acted upon."
"Very well, I will write them out."
Lee sat in silence and looked straight ahead as Grant called for his manifold order-book, opened it, lit his pipe, puffed furiously, wrote steadily for awhile with his pencil, paused, reflected, wrote two sentences and then quickly completed the text.77 Grant went over it in an undertone with one of his military secretaries, who interlined a few words. Lee did not follow any of this. He sat as he was until Grant rose, crossed to him, and put the manifold book in his hands, with the request that he read over the letter.
Lee probably was at his tensest then, for he busied himself with little mechanical acts as though to master his nerves. He placed the book on the table. He took his spectacles from his pocket. He pulled out his handkerchief. He wiped off the glasses, he crossed his legs, he set his glasses very carefully on his nose, and then he took up the order book for a slow, careful reading:
"Appomattox C. H., Va.
Apr. 9th, 1865.
"Gen. R. E. Lee.
"Comd. C. S. A.
"In accordance with the substance of my letter to you of the 8th instant I propose to receive the surrender of the Army of N. Va. 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 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"
— At this point, Lee turned the page and read on —
"Government of the United States until properly and each company or regimental commander sign a like parole for the men of their command."
Lee stopped in his reading, looked up, and said to Grant: "After the words 'until properly,' the word 'exchanged' seems to be omitted. You doubtless intended to use that word."
"Why, yes," answered Grant, "I thought I had put in the word 'exchanged.' "
"I presumed it had been omitted inadvertently, and with your permission I will mark where it should be inserted."
Lee felt for a pencil, but could not find one. Colonel Horace Porter stepped forward and offered his. Lee took it, thanked him, placed the book on the table, inserted the caret, and resumed his reading:
"The arms, artillery and public property to be parked and stacked and turned over to the officer 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 their homes 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, Lt Gl."78
There was a slight change in Lee's expression as he read the closing sentences, and his tone was not without warmth as now he looked up at Grant and said: "This will have a very happy effect on my army."
"Unless you have some suggestions to make in regard to the form in which I have stated the terms," Grant resumed, "I will have a copy of the letter made in ink and sign it."
Lee hesitated: "There is one thing I would like to mention. The cavalrymen and artillerists own their own horses in our army. Its organization in this respect differs from that of the United p139 States. I would like to understand whether these men will be permitted to retain their horses."
"You will find," answered Grant, "that the terms as written do not allow this. Only the officers are allowed to take their private property."
Lee read over the second page of the letter again. For months he had agonized over his field transportation and cavalry mounts. He knew what the army's horses would mean to the South, stripped as it had been of all draft animals, and he wanted those of his men who owned mounts to have them for the spring ploughing. His face showed his wish. His tongue would not go beyond a regretful "No, I see the terms do not allow it; that is clear."
Grant read his opponent's wish, and, with the fine consideration that prevailed throughout the conversation — one of the noblest of his qualities, and one of the surest evidences of his greatness — he did not humiliate Lee by forcing him to make a direct plea for a modification of terms that were generous. "Well, the subject is quite new to me. Of course, I did not know that any private soldiers owned their animals, but I think this will be the last battle of the war — I sincerely hope so — and that the surrender of this army will be followed soon by that of all the others, and I take it that most of the men in the ranks are small farmers, and as the country has been so raided by the two armies, it is doubtful whether they will be able to put in a crop to carry themselves and their families through the next winter without the aid of the horses they are now riding, and I will arrange it this way: I will not change the terms as now written, but I will instruct the officers I shall appoint to receive the paroles to let all the men who claim to own a horse or mule take the animals home with them to work their little farms."
It could not have been put more understandingly or more generously. Lee showed manifest relief and appreciation. "This will have the best possible effect upon the men," he said, "it will be very gratifying and will do much toward conciliating our people."
While Grant set about having his letter copied, Lee directed Marshall to draft a reply. In the wait that followed, Grant brought up and introduced the officers who had remained silent in the background. Lee shook hands with those who extended p140 theirs and bowed to the others, but he spoke only to General Seth Williams, a warm friend during his superintendency at West Point. He talked to Williams without apparent effort, but when that officer introduced a pleasantry of the old days, Lee had no heart for it. He could not jest as his army was surrendering and his country dying. He only inclined his head ever so little at Williams's joke, and he did not smile. When Colonel Parker was presented, it seemed to Horace Porter that General Lee looked at him longer than at the others. It was Porter's belief that Lee thought the Indian a Negro and was surprised to find an African on Grant's staff.79
When the introductions were over, Lee turned again to Grant. "I have a thousand or more of your men as prisoners, General Grant, a number of them officers whom we have required to march along with us for several days. I shall be glad to send them into your lines as soon as it can be arranged, for I have no provisions for them. I have, indeed, nothing for my own men. They have been living for the last few days principally upon parched corn, and are badly in need of both rations and forage. I telegraphed to Lynchburg, directing several train loads of rations to be sent on by rail from there, and when they arrive I should be glad to have the present wants of my men supplied from them."
There was a stir among the listeners at this remark, and they looked at Sheridan, for, unknown to Lee, he had the previous night captured at Appomattox Station the rations that had come down from Lynchburg. Those that had been sent up from Farmville had been found by the Federals farther down the road.80 Grant did not add to Lee's distress by a recountal of these seizures. He merely said, "I should like to have our men within our lines as soon as possible. I will take steps at once to have your army supplied with rations, but I am sorry we have no forage for the animals. We have had to depend upon the country for our supply of forage. Of about how many men does your present force consist?"
Lee reflected for a moment: "Indeed, I am not able to say. My p141 losses in killed and wounded have been exceedingly heavy, and besides, there have been many stragglers and some deserters. All my reports and public papers, and, indeed, my own private letters, had to be destroyed on the march to prevent them from falling into the hands of your people.81 Many companies are entirely without officers, and I have not seen any returns for several days; so that I have no means of ascertaining our present strength."82
Grant had estimated Lee's numbers at 25,000 and he asked, "Suppose I send over 25,000 rations, do you think that will be a sufficient supply?"
"I think it will be ample," Lee is said by Horace Porter to have replied. "And it will be a great relief, I assure you," he added instantly. Colonel Marshall's memory of Lee's answer was that he said 25,000 rations would be "more than enough."83
General Sheridan then came forward and requested that he might copy two dispatches he had sent Lee that day, in such a hurry that he had not written them out for his records. These dispatches were protests against alleged violations of the truce.84 Lee took out the dispatches from his pocket and said he was sure that if the truce had been violated it was through a misunderstanding.
By this time, Marshall had finished his draft of Lee's acceptance of Grant's terms of surrender. It began with a sentence which would indicate that the agreement had been reached by correspondence. Lee modified this because he thought it would create a false impression. He made, perhaps, a few other changes, and then he had Marshall copy the document. The Federals had borrowed p142 Marshall's ink in order to write their answer, and now, Marshall, having no paper with him, had to procure some from their stock.
The finished letter was now brought Lee and was read over by him:
"Lieut-Gen. U. S. Grant,
"Commanding Armies of the United States.
"General: I have received your letter of this date containing the terms of 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.
Very respectfully, your obedient servant,"85
Lee put his signature to this without a quiver. Marshall sealed it and went over to Parker, who already had Grant's letter waiting for him, duly signed and in an addressed envelope. They made the exchange and the surrender was complete.86 It was then about 3:45 P.M.
The rest was casual and brief. Grant explained why he was without his sword.87 Lee is said to have remarked that he usually wore his when with the army in the field.88 Then Lee requested that Grant notify Meade of the surrender, so that firing might not break out and men be slain to no purpose. He requested also, that ending the actual surrender, the two armies be kept separate, so that personal encounters would be avoided. Grant acquiesced immediately and suggested that time might be saved if two of his officers rode to Meade through the Confederate lines.89
p143 Lee thereupon rose, shook hands with General Grant, bowed to the spectators and passed from the room. He went through the hall to the porch, where several Federal officers at once sprang to their feet and saluted. Putting on his hat, Lee mechanically but with manifest courtesy returned their salute and with measured tread crossed the porch. At the head of the steps, he drew on his gauntlets, and absently smote his hands together several times as he looked into space — across the valley to the hillside where his faithful little army lay. In a moment he aroused himself and, not seeing his mount, called in a voice that was hoarse and half-choked, "Orderly! Orderly!" Quickly Tucker answered from the corner of the house, where he was holding Traveller's rein as the steed grazed. Lee walked down the steps and stood in front of the animal while the man replaced the bridle. Lee himself drew the forelock from under the brow band and parted and smoothed it. Then, as Tucker stepped aside, Lee mounted slowly and with an audible sigh.90 At that moment General Grant stepped down from the porch on his way to the gate, where his horse was waiting. Stopping suddenly, Grant took off his hat, but did not speak. The other Federals followed the courteous example of their chief. Lee raised his hat, without a word, turned his horse and rode away to an ordeal worse than a meeting with Grant — the ordeal of breaking the news to his soldiers and of telling them farewell.
By no means all the men were prepared for the surrender. The rapidity of the retreat, the failure of rations, and the dwindling of brigades to companies had spelled disaster in the minds of the intelligent. The circle of fire reflected on the clouds the night of the 8th had convinced the discerning that the army was virtually surrounded. The halt of the morning and the frequent passage of flags of truce had confirmed their fears of capitulation. Yet such p144 was the faith of the army in itself and in its commander that many were unwilling to believe the end had come.
Lee came toward them, down from the ridge, across the little valley, up the hillside through the pickets, and into the line. He was as erect as ever, but he was staring straight ahead of him, with none of the cheerfulness and composure that usually marked his countenance even in the most dreadful moments of his hardest battles.91 The men started to cheer him, as they often did when he rode among them, but somehow their cheers froze in their throats at the sight of him.92 They hesitated a moment as he rode fixedly on, and then without a word they broke ranks and rushed toward him.
"General," they began to cry, "are we surrendered?"
The question was like a blow in the face. He tried to go on, but they crowded about him, bareheaded. He removed his hat in acknowledgment and attempted once more to proceed. The road was too full of frenzied, famished faces. He had to halt and answer his loyal old soldiers. "Men," he said, "we have fought the war together, and I have done the best I could for you. You will all be paroled and go to your homes until exchanged."93 Tears came into his eyes as he spoke. He attempted to say more but even his amazing self-mastery failed him. Moving his lips in a choking "good-bye," he again essayed to ride on to the orchard from which he had come.
"General, we'll fight them yet," they answered.
"General, say the word and we'll go in and fight 'em yet."94
Everywhere as the news spread, each soldier reacted to it in his own fashion. Some wept, openly and without abashment. Others were dazed, as though they did not understand how the Army of Northern Virginia, Lee's army, could surrender. To Field's division, p145 which had suffered little on the retreat, it seemed incomprehensible.95 To others, it was as the very end of the world. "Blow, Gabriel, blow!" cried one man, and threw down his musket as General Grimes told him what had happened. My God, let him blow, I am ready to die!"96
Some blasphemed and some babbled, but all who could do so crowded to say farewell to Lee. Catching hold of his hands, they looked up at him and cried the more. They touched his uniform or his bridle rein, if they could not grasp his hand, and if they could not reach him, they smoothed Traveller's flank or patted his neck. And in a confused roar, half-sob, half-acclamation, they voiced their love for him, their faith in him, their good-bye to him as their commander.97
Passing on slowly, agonizingly, he stopped at the apple orchard, where Talcott's engineers were still doing duty, and passed the cordon they had formed around the place. Lee saw Talcott among his men and had sufficient composure to tell the colonel what the terms were. Grant would soon send rations, he said. Talcott must keep his men together and must make them as comfortable as possible until they were paroled.98
Then Lee retired a short distance into the orchard away from the road, and there he began to feel the reaction. He could not sit down or rest but kept pacing up and down under a tree. To one at least of those who watched him, Blackford of the engineers, he seemed in "one of his savage moods." Blackford added, "when these moods were on him it was safer to keep out of his way." The staff officers did not disturb him. He walked and turned and walked again and turned, battling with his own emotions. Presently, though the abandoned lines, there began to arrive Federal officers, generally in groups of four or five. Some knew him and wished to greet him. Others were drawn by curiosity to gaze at the old lion, captured at last. They went to Taylor or to Venable, who had field headquarters under another tree, and asked to be presented to the General. Taylor brought them p146 over. At their approach, Lee halted, drew himself up and stood at attention. He "glared" at them, according to Blackford, "with a look few men but he could assume."99 They approached and took off their hats. He merely touched the rim of his hat in return and sometimes did not seem to Major Blackford to do even that. The interviews were all brief and manifestly not to his liking. In the hour of the supreme tragedy of his career as a soldier, Lee did not wish to see strangers or to be stared at, it mattered not with what deference.
He probably had halted at the apple orchard to be accessible for the necessary business of the surrender, and he waited until the Federal wagons had begun to arrive with the rations.100 It may have been while he was there that he received from Grant's headquarters a copy of the order appointing the three Federal commissioners to arrange the details of the surrender.101 His own representatives, Longstreet, Gordon, and Pendleton, were named the same day, it is not known where or at what hour.102
The sun was now near its setting. The immediate duties were done. Lee mounted Traveller and started toward his headquarters, which were under a large white oak, about a mile to the rear. As he went, the scenes of his return from the interview with General Grant were repeated in heightened pathos. For now the whole army knew that the surrender had occurred, and most of the intelligent men had been given time to reflect what that act meant to him who was, in their eyes, both cause and country. "There was," Blackford wrote, "a general rush from each side of the road to greet him as he passed, and two solid walls of men were formed along the whole distance. Their officers followed, and behind the lines of men were groups of them, mounted and dismounted, awaiting his coming. . . . As soon as he entered this avenue of these old soldiers, the flower of the army, the men who had stood to their duty through thick and thin in so many battles, wild, heartfelt cheers arose which so touched General Lee that p147 tears filled his eyes and trickled down his cheeks as he rode his splendid charger, hat in hand, bowing his acknowledgments. This exhibition of feeling on his part found quick response from the men whose cheers changed to choking sobs as, with streaming eyes and many evidences of affection, they waved their hats as he passed. Each group began in the same way, with cheers, and ended in the same way, with sobs, all along the route to his headquarters. Grim, bearded men threw themselves on the ground, covered their faces with their hands and wept like children. Officers of all ranks made no attempt to conceal their feelings, but sat on their horses and cried aloud. . . . Traveller . . . took as much pleasure in applause as a human being, and always acknowledged the cheers of the troops by tosses of his head and the men frequently cheered him for it, to which he would answer back as often as they did. On this, Traveller's last appearance before them, his head was tossing a return to the salutes all along the line. . . . One man . . . extended his arms, and with an emphatic gesture said, 'I love you just as well as ever, General Lee!' "103
They thronged about him when he reached his headquarters, and when he dismounted all who were in sight of his camp hastened up.
"Let me get in," they began to cry. "Let me bid him farewell."
Lee stood with Long and Stevens and a few other old personal friends, and he sought to keep his composure, but as man after man crowded around him, each with warm words, his eyes filled anew with tears. In broken phrases he told his veterans to go home, to plant a crop and to obey the law, and again and again he tried to say farewell. But they would not have it so. One handsome private, a gentleman in bearing, for all his dirt and rags, shook hands and said, "General, I have had the honor of serving in this army since you took command. If I thought I were to blame for what has occurred today, I could not look you in the face, but I always try to do my duty. I hope to have the honor of serving under you again. Good-bye, General; God bless you."
This forthright profession relieved the strain. In the stir that followed, Lee lifted his hat once more in salute and went into his tent . . . to be alone.104
4 Marshall's Appomattox, 12.
6 Pendleton, 404.
7 The map in Schaff, 222, seems to be accurate though it does not show Gordon's exact position.
9 J. H. Claiborne: Seventy-five Years in Old Virginia, 281.
10 Corley's report, Lee MSS. — L.
11 Gordon's report, Lee MSS. — K.
12 Field's report, Lee MSS. — L.
14 Pendleton's report, Lee MSS. — L; Colonel Baldwin in his report, Lee MSS. — L, stated that the guns numbered sixty-three.
16 Baldwin's report, Lee MSS. — L.
20 Grimes in 27 S. H. S. P., 94.
21 Longstreet's report, Lee MSS. — K.
22 There had been no opportunity of ascertaining the different Federal units, but had Gordon known it, those on his right were of Ord's command, which had just come up (O. R., 46, part 1, p1162). Those supporting the cavalry on his left and joining Ord's right were the V Corps (O. R., 46, part 1, p841), with Chamberlain's brigade on the extreme right, beyond the cavalry.
23 This description paraphrases Gordon's report, Lee MSS. — K. Cf. Gordon, 436‑37 and Grimes's account in 27 S. H. S. P., 94.
24 Venable, in Long, 421. As given in Gordon, 437‑38, written long after the war, the message was "Tell General Lee that my command has been fought to a frazzle, and unless Longstreet can unite in my movement, or prevent those forces from coming upon my rear, I cannot long go forward."
25 Venable in Long, 421.
26 Venable in Long, 422.
27 Chesnay, 127; Cooke, 461.
28 Longstreet, op. cit., 625, did not attempt direct quotations in this passage.
29 Longstreet, 625.
30 That is, the junction of the roads being followed by the two armies.
31 Alexander, 604‑5. Alexander's quotation marks are not, of course, to be taken literally, but there is no reason to believe they in any way misrepresent the substance of Lee's remarks.
32 Alexander, 605.
33 This is established by his reference to "these gentlemen around me" in the dialogue that followed. It is not certain whether the conversation with Alexander preceded or followed that with Taylor. The writer thinks the order given in the text is correct.
34 Taylor's Four Years, 151‑52.
35 Alexander, 606.
36 W. H. Palmer to W. H. Taylor, MS., June 24, 1911 — Taylor MSS.
37 Humphreys, 395.
38 O. R., 46, part 3, p664. At Grant's headquarters there had been a warm discussion of Lee's previous letter. Grant had not been disposed to raise a question, as he believed Lee was simply seeking to find an easy and honorable way of surrendering the army, but General John A. Rawlins had insisted on this form of reply (J. H. Wilson: John A. Rawlins, 317 ff.).
39 Alexander, 606; Humphreys, 393.
40 MS., office of the U. S. Adjutant General.
41 The copy in the Lee MSS. is from memory.
42 Marshall's Appomattox, 17.
43 Alexander, 607.
44 Longstreet 626‑27. The conclusion as to who carried the message is reached by elimination. Taylor said (General Lee, 289) that both he and Marshall rode back with General Lee. Colonel Haskell's horse was in such condition that he could not have transmitted so important a dispatch speedily. Sergeant Tucker of course remained with the flag of truce. The second messenger from Fitz Lee was, therefore, the only one who could have borne the order, which was certainly received before Lee returned to the front. It is proper to remark at this point that Marshall and Taylor each made an error in their report of this ride to the rear. Taylor stated (Four Years, 152) that Colonel Whittier told them Grant was prevented from meeting Lee on that road but requested that General Lee meet him on the other road. This error is in keeping with Miss Mason's statement (op. cit., 307) that Lee never received Grant's dispatch beginning "your note of yesterday." Lee's own language, as already quoted, is proof that he did receive the letter, and not merely a message. Colonel Marshall's error was in confusing (Appomattox, 17) the message from Gordon, early in the morning, with that from Longstreet and Fitz Lee through Colonel Haskell.
45 Marshall's Appomattox, 17.
46 Marshall's Appomattox, 17; C. A. Whittier to Nelson A. Miles, Feb. 15, 1896, quoted in N. A. Miles: Personal Recollections, 44.
47 Longstreet's report, Lee MSS. — K; Longstreet, 625‑26; Alexander, 608.
50 Gordon's report, Lee MSS. — K.
52 Gordon, 439; Longstreet, 627.
53 Alexander, 609.
54 32 S. H. S. P., 72.
55 Taylor's Four Years, 152. Colonel Taylor was of opinion, on his ride to the rear, that the Federals had not advanced as far toward left's rear as some writers have claimed (W. H. Taylor to E. P. Alexander, MS., Aug. 24, 1906, Taylor MSS.).
56 Meade's letter, O. R., 46, part 3, p666, shows that Forsyth was with him when it was written. As Forsyth was returning directly and was concerned in the very subject of the correspondence he naturally would bring the letter.
57 This is Major Giles B. Cooke's recollection.
58 Alexander, 609; Longstreet, 628.
59 Major Giles B. Cooke in 1 Macrae, 192; Frank Potts to Reverend Doctor John Potts, April, 1865, Palmetto Leaf, Jan. 8, 1927; reprinted as the Death of the Confederacy, cited hereafter as Frank Potts; cf. Owen, 385.
60 Taylor's General Lee, 290; 1 Macrae, 192.
61 So Marshall and Taylor; Horace Porter, who was not a witness, said (4 B. and L., 735) Colonel Babcock handed the communication to one of Lee's staff.
64 Marshall's Appomattox, p8.
65 Alexander, 603n and 610. Alexander stated that this message was sent by Colonel Forsyth. As Forsyth proceeded, according to Taylor (General, 290), back into his own lines, where he naturally would go at once to report to Sheridan, Alexander must have confused Forsyth's ride before Babcock's arrival with that of another officer subsequently.
66 Taylor's Four Years, 152.
67 Marshall's Appomattox, 18.
68 W. H. Palmer to W. H. Taylor, MS., June 24, 1911 — Taylor MSS.
69 Marshall is the only authority for this part of the ride.
70 Marshall's Appomattox, 18; Alexander, 610. Major McLean happened to be the first white civilian Colonel Marshall met in the village. When Marshall told him what was wanted, McLean first conducted him to a different house. Marshall found this vacant and in very bad repair and told McLean it would not serve the purpose. Thereupon McLean offered his own, well-furnished residence.
71 The photograph of the house, used in the text, is perhaps the best, but one of much excellence appears, along with other good pictures of the retreat, in the Photographic History of the Civil War, 3, 315. The reader should be warned, however, that the legends under these particular cuts are singularly inaccurate.
72 4 B. and L., 735.
73 Babcock never wrote of Appomattox.
74 Cf. A. J. McKelway in 52 Harpers Weekly, 411.
75 Grant subsequently admitted that he was "much embarrassed" during the interview (J. T. Austin: Moses Coit Tyler, 60‑61).
76 2 Grant, 490. General Ely S. Parker, on the other hand, in his Narrative (see Bibliography) asserted in 1893 that the conversation lagged.
78 A reproduction of the original, with Lee's caret duly appearing, is in 2 Grant, 497.
79 Parker, op. cit., stated that the introductions were made when Grant's officers entered the room.
81 Lee left Petersburg, according to Doctor J. H. Claiborne (Seventy-Five Years in Old Virginia, 279), with his headquarters wagon, his ambulance and a carriage, the last-named probably the vehicle he had used in his illness during the last week of May, 1864. In a panic, on April 7, the teamsters or clerks had destroyed all the records of army headquarters (Jones, 180, quoting Lee), except probably those that were in the General's military chest. The letter-books and a few other papers were preserved. With the documents sent Lee after the war, when he was planning to write a history of his campaigns, these form the corpus of the Lee MSS. quoted so many times in these pages. Among the papers destroyed must have been most of the reports and much of the correspondence covering the period from May 4, 1864. Apparently all headquarters correspondence prior to that date had been sent to the archives in Richmond, whence it was shipped farther south for safety. It is now in the records of the War Department, Washington.
82 This is taken, with the rest, from Horace Porter's well-known account (4 B. and L., 735 ff.). It does not seem reasonable to accept all else that Porter said as direct quotation and to omit this. The collateral evidence, however, is against its literal accuracy. Lee would hardly have failed to take into account his losses of prisoners and, besides, he had watched as closely as he could the decline in his numbers.
83 4 B. and L., 742; Marshall's Appomattox, 18.
84 There is no mention of these dispatches in the Official Records and no reference to them in the narratives of any of those who were near Lee that day.
86 Parker, op. cit.
87 Cf. Parker, op. cit.
88 There was, however, some misunderstanding here as Lee rarely wore a sword.
89 This account, in the main, follows Horace Porter, loc. cit. Parker's Narrative, written in 1893, is substantially the same but presents what would seem to be a less logical sequence of events. The myth of a tender of Lee's sword and its return by Grant was, of course, so exploded by Grant (op. cit., 2, 494) and by Marshall (29 S. H. S. P., 269‑73; cf. 9 ibid., 139‑40) that reference to it in the text has not been considered necessary. The sword, by the way, did not have a hilt "studded with jewels," as Porter thought. It was Lee's "Maryland sword," fully described by Fitz Lee (op. cit., 394). It is now in the Confederate Museum, Richmond. Talking after the war with John Randolph Tucker, Lee answered in this way a question as to whether Grant had returned his sword. "No, sir," he said, "he had no opportunity of doing so. By the terms the side arms of officers (p143)were exempt from surrender, and I did not violate those terms by tendering him my sword. All that was said about swords was that General Grant apologized to me for not wearing his sword, saying it had gone off in his baggage, and he had not been able to get it in time" (J. William Jones in Richmond Times-Dispatch, Jan. 20, 1907). Badeau (Grant in Peace, 18‑23) stated on Grant's authority that the Federal commander glanced at Lee's sword during the composition of the terms of surrender, reasoned that it would be a humiliation to Lee to surrender his weapon, and thereupon wrote the sentence exempting officers' side arms.
90 George A. Forsyth: "The Closing Scene at Appomattox Court House," Harpers Magazine, April, 1898, pp708‑10.
91 Major A. R. H. Hanson in 122 Harper's Monthly, 335.
92 E. A. Moore, 290.
93 38 S. H. S. P., 12. Of the many versions of his words, the writer has taken that of Captain Frederick M. Colston. That officer said he climbed to a wagon hub and heard Lee distinctly, though he stated that Lee added some other words he forgot. Lawley's contemporary version (Fortnightly Review, September, 1865, p9) is almost identical. A fuller version, Peacock's, which appears in 19 S. H. S. P., 269, may include some of Lee's remarks later in the day: "Yes, my men, you are surrendered. The odds against us were too great. I would not lead you to fruitless slaughter. Private property will be respected; officers will retain their side arms and horses. All will be paroled and transported to your homes and may you find your families and loved ones well. Good-bye, my men, good-bye."
94 Major Giles B. Cooke, quoted in 1 Macrae, 193.
95 Longstreet, 629.
96 27 S. H. S. P., 96; Grimes, 122.
97 Gordon must have come up about this time. On the authority of Gordon, after the war, Jones quoted Lee as saying at this time, "I could wish that I were numbered among the fallen in the last battle!" But this was too rhetorical for Lee (Jones, 346; Cf. Gordon, 282).
98 32 S. H. S. P., 72.
99 Memoirs of Life in and out of the Army in Virginia. . . . Compiled by Susan Leigh Blackford (cited hereafter as Blackford), vol. 2, Appendix, p. iv.
100 Blackford, loc. cit.
102 O. R., 46, part 3, p666‑67. It is not plain whether he sent for Longstreet from the apple orchard or later in the evening from his headquarters to get his advice as to distribution of the money in the custody of the chief of ordnance (Longstreet, 628).
103 Blackford, II, Appendix, p. vi. Most of those who have written of this historic scene have overlooked the fact that there were two rides through the army. Consequently the remarks Lee made when stopped on his ride through Gordon's command, on his way back to the apple orchard, are usually quoted as though spoken just before he went to his tent.
104 Blackford, II, Appendix, p. vi; Frank Potts, 14‑15.
a The McLean house at Appomattox Courthouse, after a photograph made the same month: Freeman does well to date the photograph, and when he wrote, the house no longer existed. A speech by North Carolina Chief Justice Walter Clark to the North Carolina Confederate Veterans Association on August 24, 1921, later printed as North Carolina at Gettysburg, and Pickett's charge a misnomer, also, Sixty years afterwards and the Rearguard of the Confederacy, summarizes the situation (p20):
"Appomattox Court House, where the surrender took place, has very much dwindled, and the courthouse itself has been removed and rebuilt at Appomattox Station, four miles away, on the Norfolk and Western Railroad, and the jail has been burned. The McLean house, in which the actual surrender was signed, was bought by a Northern man and was torn down. For some reason the timbers were never removed and have rotted on the spot. The Federal Government some time since bought the surrounding land, but from good policy, or perhaps proper consideration for the feelings of a gallant people, whose hopes expired on this spot, or for some other cause, has erected no monuments. The apple tree under which General Lee stood when he received and accepted Grant's invitation to a conference, was soon thereafter dug up, even to the very roots, as mementoes, by the Federal soldiers."
The Federal Government eventually did memorialize the place, though, and the McLean house is shown by the Park Service as being the surrender site; but it is a complete reconstruction undertaken in the late 1940s, although using some original material — the "timbers [that] were never removed and have rotted on the spot" mentioned by Judge Clark. See the Park Service website for the full details.
Images with borders lead to more information.
The thicker the border, the more information. (Details here.)
Robert E. Lee
A page or image on this site is in the public domain ONLY
if its URL has a total of one *asterisk.
If the URL has two **asterisks,
the item is copyright someone else, and used by permission or fair use.
If the URL has none the item is © Bill Thayer.
See my copyright page for details and contact information.
Page updated: 26 Jan 15