War between the
President Lincoln's Last Week
April 7, 1865
Grant opened correspondence with Lee.:
"The result 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 State Army known as 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."
The road to Lynchburg, next goal of Lee's
badly harried army, passed through hamlets and villages and Appomattox Station near
Appomattox Court House. Behind what was left of the Army of Northern Virginia,
General Sheridan's cavalry seized Confederate supply trains at Appomattox Station.
Grant had received Lee's note of April 7th,
asking what terms the Union offered. Grant replied, "Peace being my great
desire, there is but one condition I would insist upon. Namely that the men and
officers surrendered shall be disqualified from taking up arms again against the
Government of the United States until prisoners are properly exchanged." He
offered to meet with Lee to receive a surrender. Later in the day, Lee replied,
"I did not intend to propose the surrender of the Army of Northern Virginia, but to
ask the terms of the proposition." He did not think the "emergency has
arisen to call for the surrender of this army". But still Lee wanted to talk with
In the morning Lee was informed that a number
of officers had conferred the evening before and agreed the army could not get through to
join Johnston and that he ought to open negotiations. Lee refused the
suggestion made to spare him from taking the lead in surrender. That night Lee had
his final council of war.
At Danville, President Davis got information
from Secretary of War, Breckinridge and messenger John S. Wise that the situation was
On Palm Sunday, April 9th, a clear spring sun
rose in Virginia. But when the sun went down, with it went the "hopes of a
people who, with prayers and tears and blood had striven to uphold that fallen flag."
Confederate soldier, Edward Boykin, told of the men who came "to their
officers with tears streaming from their eyes and asked what it all meant ?"
"I would have rather died the night before than see the sun rise on such a day as
Robert E. Lee had surrendered the Army of
Northern Virginia to Ulysses Simpson Grant.
There was some confusion on various parts of
the field--truce flags, some small-arms, Federal General Custer demanding the surrender of
the Confederates. But the drama centered on the neat, comfortable home of Wilmer
McLean at Appomattox Court House. There, in the early afternoon, General Lee and one
aide met General Grant, his staff and several of the commanders. After pleasantries,
Lee called the attention to the matter at hand. There was a brief discussion of
terms, which Grant said were the same as in his message:
"Officers and men surrendered were to be
paroled and disqualified from taking up arms until a proper exchange. Arms, ammunition and
supplies were to be turned over as capture property. This was in line with Lincoln's
direct instructions to Grant. The army was not to arrange a peace--just take care of
Grant wrote out his proposal, went over it
with his staff and presented it to Lee. The terms did not include surrender of side arms
of officers or of their private horses or baggage, and allowed each officer and man to go
home and not be disturbed as long as parole was observed. Lee then brought up the
fact that cavalrymen and artillerists owned their own horses which would be needed for the
spring planting. After a short conference Grant agreed to let those who claimed
horses have them. Arrangements also were made to feed Lee's army from Federal
supplies. Thus it was completed.--
A document from Grant to Lee giving terms of
surrender of the Army of Northern Virginia and one from Lee to Grant accepting those
Lee returned to his waiting army. As the
men crowded around him, he spoke softly. "I have done for you all that was in my
power to do. You have all done your duty. Leave the results to God. Go
to your homes and resume your occupations. Obey the laws and become good citizens as
you were good soldiers." Hats off, the men stood, with tears in their eyes, Lee
rode off, eyes neither left or right.
Of course the war was not over....
President Lincoln was serenaded several times
during the day by the relieved and happy crowds in Washington. He promised to make a more
formal utterance the following evening.. The President ask the bands to play
"Dixie" as it was "one of the best tunes I have ever heard.'
A ceremony took place at Appomattox Court House. Federal troops formed along the principal
street to await the formal laying down of battle flags and arms by the Confederates.
General Joshua Chamberlain of Maine described it: "on they came with the old swinging
route step and swaying battleflags. In the van, the proud Confederate ensign. Before us in
proud humiliation stood the embodiment of manhood, men whom neither toils and sufferings,
nor the fact of death, disaster, nor hopelessness could bend them from their resolve;
standing before us now, thin, worn and famished but erect and eyes looking level into
ours, waking memories that bound us together as no other bond."
As the bugle sounded, the Federal line shifted to the marching salute of carry arms.
General Gorden riding heavy in spirit. saw the salute, whirled on his horse, dropped the
point of his sword to the boot toe and ordered: "Carry arms--honor answering
And then the battle-worn colors of the regiments were folded and laid down until only the
Federal colors were against the sky. Old Glory flew again...Memories, tears, victory and
defeat blended into one. Of General Lee, one Confederate soldier wrote: "We who live
today shall never see his like again and whether our posterity does, is problematic...
Mr. Lincoln was now very concerned with reconstruction. To General Weitzel at Richmond, he
wired that if there was no sign of the Virginia legislature convening, the offer should be
withdrawn. In another telegraph to Weitzel, Lincoln said Judge Campbell was wrong in
assuming Lincoln called the insurgent legislature of Virginia together.
Lincoln said" "I have done no such thing. I spoke of them not as a Legislature
but as "the gentlemen who acted as the Legislature of Virginia in support of
rebellion." He denied they were the rightful legislature. The president then told
Weitzel not to let them assemble. Of course, Judge Campbell had understood otherwise and
it seem that now, facing opposition in the Cabinet on this policy, Lincoln had thought
better of calling the Legislature.
Secretary of War Stanton ordered the draft halted and curtailed purchases of war material.
The number of officers were reduced and many military restrictions removed the first step
in demobilization. President Lincoln conferred with Gen. Grant, Stanton. Welles and
April 14, 1854
The event of Good Friday, April 14, 1865, will remain vivid as long as the history of the
United States is known. Shortly after 10PM in the presidential box at Ford's Theater,
President Lincoln was shot by John Wilkes Booth.
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