And War Mercifully Ends

Lee and Grant at Appomattox

April and May, 1865

“. . . . Early that afternoon the two great leaders met at the house of Mr. Wilmer McLean, at Appomattox Courthouse. Dignified Lee, wearing his best uniform and a dress sword, gave no evidence of his inner thoughts. Grant, calm as usual, but anxious to spare the feelings of his illustrious foe, apologized for his appearance in mud-stained field attire, then led the conversation to earlier, happier days in the “old” Army.

Then, after Lee politely reminded him of the purpose of the meeting, Grant wrote out the surrender terms: All officers and men of the Army of Northern Virginia were to give their paroles not to fight again until properly exchanged, and would be allowed to return home undisturbed, so long as they keep their parole; all weapons and army property were to be turned over to the Union, but officers could keep their side arms, private baggage and horses.

Lee, obviously touched by the generosity of these terms, said: ‘This will have a very happy effect upon my army.” After a pause, he mentioned to Grant that the enlisted cavalry and artillery soldiers also owned their own horses. Grant promptly replied that he believed this would be the last battle of the war, and though he did not change the written terms, said he would give instructions that “all the men who claim to own a horse or mule [could] take the animals home with them to work their little farms.”

For the second time Lee displayed his feelings. ‘This will have the best possible effect upon the men,” he replied gratefully. ‘It will be very gratifying and will do much toward conciliating our people.’ Grant’s terms for surrender, and Lee’s letter of acceptance, were then copied by staff officers and signed by the generals. After some more polite conversation, Lee left, exchanging salutes with Grant as he rode off to the sad, bitter task of telling his loyal men that the war was ended for the Army of Northern Virginia. At about the same time Union quartermasters, at Grant’s direction, began moving welcome wagon-loads of rations into the famished Confederate lines.

Three days later the Army [of Northern Virginia] marched out of its cantonments to lay down it arms. Drawn up to receive it were two brigades of the Army of the Potomac, commanded by Brigadier General Joshua L. Chamberlain. The Stars and Stripes waved on the right of the Federal line; beside it the flag of the 1st Division of the V Corps.

At the head of the Confederate column plodding through the mud – the incessant rains of the last few days had stopped, but the terrain was still abominably mired – rode John B. Gordon, in command of the II Corps. Behind him marched the Stonewall Brigade, followed by the remainder of the proud Army; their ranks so thin and few that the succession of regimental battle flags gave the appearance of being massed.

The Southern column lapped the flank of the Federal troops. A single Union bugle blared an order. Dejected Gordon raised his head on hearing the familiar slap and rattle as the blue-coated regiments shifted their arms to the marching salute. His back straightened, his saber came up and then down in smart precision. As Chamberlain’s blade flickered to return the salute, Gordon’s voice rang down his own ranks.

‘Carry arms!’

Bent heads lifted, sloping muskets snapped from straightened shoulders to the marching salute. And thus the Army of Northern Virginia passed, in silence broken only by the splat-splat-splat of marching feet in mud.

‘. . . Not a sound of trumpet more, nor roll of drum,’ wrote Chamberlain later; ‘not a cheer nor word nor whisper of vain-glorying. . .but an awed silence rather, and breathtaking, as if it were the passing of the dead.’

The column wheeled into successive lines, halted, and arms were stacked. Upon the muskets the color sergeants laid for the last time their tenderly rolled battle flags. Then, like mourners hurrying half-dazed from the grave, the men of the Army of Northern Virginia marched away. Their last parade had ended.

Officially, of course, Lee’s surrender affected only the forces of his army present for duty at Appomattox – 28,356 officers and men. The practical effect, however, was to serve as a signal of the war’s end to all other Confederate troops still under arms. The formalities of negotiation an surrender were punctiliously observed by both sides.” [from pages 454 through 456 in Dupuy and Dupuy]

After describing the surrender of Johnston to Sherman, the authors state:

“Further south and west, General Richard Taylor on May 4 surrendered all remaining forces in Mississippi and Alabama to General Canby. West of the Mississippi, Kirby Smith surrendered on May 26. President Davis, [fleeing south], had already been captured by Wilson’s men at Irwinsville, Georgia, just north of the Florida border on May 10. On the twenty-ninth, President Andrew Johnson issued a proclamation of amnesty to all persons who had taken part in the rebellion, save for senior civilian and military officials of the Confederacy. The Civil War had officially ended.” [page 457]

the above description is from: Col. R. Ernest Dupuy and Col. Trevor N. Dupuy, THE COMPACT HISTORY OF THE CIVIL WAR [New York, NY: Warner Books Edition, c. 1960, 5th Editon, 1993]: 454 – 457.

[Editor’s note: one other large group was not included in pardon extended by the President Johnson’s general amnesty; namely, those individuals in the Confederate states whose financial worth was $20,000 or over. They were required to make personal application to President Andrew Johnson for an individual pardon. Between May and December 1865, in North Carolina, this heavy responsibility fell to the new Provisional Governor of the state, William W. Holden, who read these applications for a pardon and subsequently made a recommendation on each applicant to President Johnson. When the process was completed, he recommended that everyone be pardoned except two individuals and two others had the connections not to use the state process and applied directly to President Johnson. One of my great great grandfathers, due to his ownership of land plus businesses in Nashville, NC, was required to apply for an individual pardon from President Johnson.]

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