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Today in History - April 9

Lee Surrenders

“It would be useless and therefore cruel,” Robert E. Lee remarked on the morning of April 9, 1865, “to provoke the further effusion of blood, and I have arranged to meet with General Grant with a view to surrender.” 1

The two generals met shortly after noon on April 9, 1865, at the home of Wilmer McLean in the village of Appomattox Court House, Virginia. Lee’s surrender of the Army of Northern Virginia to Ulysses S. Grant, general-in-chief of all United States forces, hastened the conclusion of the Civil War.

Major General Ulysses S. Grant, officer of the Federal Army, Brady National Photographic Art Gallery, between 1860 and 1865. Selected Civil War Photographs
General Robert E. Lee, officer of the Confederate Army, Julian Vannerson, photographer, 1863. Selected Civil War Photographs

In the weeks following, other Confederate forces surrendered, and Confederate President Jefferson Davis was captured. On April 14, 1865, just over four years after the bombardment of Fort Sumter that triggered the fighting, President Abraham Lincoln became one of the more than 1 million Civil War casualties (including more than 600,000 dead), and the bloody fighting that began in the corn fields of Manassas, Virginia in July 1861 finally came to a close.

After the surrender, former soldiers slowly returned home. One young Southerner despaired of seeing her husband again, when he turned up in Richmond ragged, but recognizable. Remembering the difficult years during and after the war she summed up her experience:

We had nothing on which to begin life over again, but we were young and strong, and began it cheerily enough. We are prosperous now, …little grandchildren cluster about us and listen with interest to grandpapa’s and grandmamma’s tales of the days when they “fought and bled and died together.” They can’t understand how such nice people as the Yankees and ourselves ever could have fought each other. “It doesn’t seem reasonable,” says Nellie…who is engaged to a gentleman from Boston, where we sent her to cultivate her musical talents, but where she applied herself to other matters, ‘it doesn’t seem reasonable, grandmamma, when you could just as easily have settled it all comfortably without any fighting. How glad I am I wasn’t living then! How thankful I am that ‘Old Glory’ floats alike over North and South, now!’

And so am I, my darling, so am I!

Myrta Lockett Avary, ed. A Virginia Girl in the Civil War, 1861-1865 (New York: D. Appleton and Co., 1903). Electronic Edition, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, 1997. First-Person Narratives of the American South, 1860-1920 External

Federal Soldiers at the Court House, Appomattox Court House, Virginia, Timothy H. O’Sullivan, photographer, April 1865. Selected Civil War Photographs
McLean House, Appomattox Court House, Virginia, Timothy H. O’Sullivan, photographer, April 1865. Selected Civil War Photographs
Civilians in front of the Hotel, Appomattox Court House, Virginia, Timothy H. O’Sullivan, photographer, April 1865. Selected Civil War Photographs
  1. E. B. Long with Barbara Long, The Civil War Day By Day: An Almanac, 1861-1865, (1971; reprint, New York: Da Capo Press, 1971), 670. (Return to text)

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