Published in the Spotsylvania Presbyterian Church Post
by Michael Aubrecht, Copyright 2006

With all the excitement surrounding SPC's upcoming "Peacemaker" Bible-Study program, I thought it might be interesting to present one of the most pivotal moments of peacemaking in American history; the surrender at Appomattox.

On April 9, 1865, after four long years of fighting, Gen. Robert E. Lee gracefully submitted the control of his Confederate forces to Union Gen. Ulysses S. Grant at the village of Appomattox Court House in Virginia. By the end of May, all of the remaining Southern forces laid down their arms, bringing to conclusion one of the worst trials in American history and reuniting a country that had been divided in a great Civil War. One of the most interesting, yet often overlooked aspects of the surrender is the intimate correspondence that was exchanged by both the North and South's supreme commanders over a three-day period. After discussing the matter via couriers, both generals agreed to gather together for a meeting that initiated the end of the bloodiest conflict in the nation's history. Below are some excerpts taken from their dispatches:

April 7th, 1865

General: The results of the last week must convince you of the hopelessness of further resistance on the part of the Army of Northern Virginia in this struggle. I feel that it is so, and regard it as my duty to shift from myself the responsibility of any further effusion of blood by asking of you the surrender of that portion of the Confederate States army known as the Army of Northern Virginia. - U.S. Grant, Lieutenant-General

General: I have received your note of this date. Though not entertaining the opinion you express of the hopelessness of further resistance on the part of the Army of Northern Virginia, I reciprocate your desire to avoid useless effusion of blood, and therefore, before considering your proposition, ask the terms you will offer on condition of its surrender. - R.E. Lee, General.

April 8th, 1865

General: Your note of last evening in reply to mine of the same date, asking the conditions on which I will accept the surrender of the Army of Northern Virginia, is just received. In reply I would say that, peace being my great desire… I will meet you, or will designate officers to meet any officers you may name for the same purpose, at any point agreeable to you, for the purpose of arranging definitely the terms upon which the surrender of the Army of Northern Virginia will be received. - U.S. Grant, Lieutenant-General

General: I received at a late hour your note of today. In mine of yesterday I did not intend to propose the surrender of the Army of Northern Virginia, but to ask the terms of your proposition… I cannot, therefore, meet you with a view to surrender the Army of Northern Virginia; but as far as your proposal may affect the Confederate States forces under my command, and tend to the restoration of peace, I should be pleased to meet you at 10 A.M. tomorrow on the old state road to Richmond, between the picket-lines of the two armies. - R.E. Lee, General.

April 9th, 1865

General: Your note of yesterday is received. I have not 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, that I am equally desirous for peace with yourself, and the whole North entertains the same feeling. The terms upon which peace can be had are well understood. By the South laying down their arms, they would hasten that most desirable event, save thousands of human lives, and hundreds of millions of property not yet destroyed… - U.S. Grant, Lieutenant-General

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.

Soon after this last dispatch, both commanders agreed (via messenger) to meet at the house of Wilmer McLean. Upon arriving first, Gen. Lee was asked to wait in a large sitting room on the first floor of the residence. Gen. Grant arrived shortly thereafter and entered the room alone while his staff respectfully waited on the front lawn. After apologizing for both his tardiness and ragged appearance, Grant began the conversation by saying, "I met you once before, General Lee, while we were serving in Mexico... I have always remembered your appearance, and I think I should have recognized you anywhere." "Yes," replied General Lee, "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."

The two veterans talked a bit more about Mexico and moved on to a discussion of the terms of the surrender when Lee asked Grant to commit the terms to paper. At a little before 4 o'clock General Lee shook hands with General Grant, bowed to the other officers, and left the room. He then exited the house and signaled to his orderly to bring up his horse. As Lee mounted, Grant stepped down from the porch, and, moving toward him, saluted him by raising his hat. All of the Union officers present followed him in this act of courtesy; Lee returned the gesture and rode off to break the sad news to the men whom he had so long commanded.

Years later, both generals met for the last time. Grant had entered politics and was elected as the 18th President of the United States. Lee was President of Washington University. Both men did not wish to reminisce and avoided discussing the war. Their desire was to accept the results as God's will, and move on together, in peace.




A proud, published member of

Copyright 2005 Michael Aubrecht - Best viewed in Internet Explorer at 1024x768+