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War between the States
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 Grant.

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 critical.

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 this." 

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 the surrender...

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 terms...

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 honor."

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 others.

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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