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April 9 1865 The Army of Northern Virgina Surrenders

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The Appomattox Campaign

March 25 - April 9, 1865

 

The final campaign of the Army of Northern Virginia began March 25,1865, when Gen. Robert E. Lee sought to break Gen. Ulysses S. Grant's ever-tightening stranglehold at Petersburg, Va., by attacking the Federal position at Fort Stedman. The assault failed, and when Grant counterattacked a week later at Five Forks, 1-2 April, the thin Confederate line snapped, and Lees skeleton forces abandoned Richmond and Petersburg. The Confederate retreat began southwestward as Lee sought to use the still-operational Richmond & Danville Railroad. At its western terminus at Danville he would unite with Gen. Joseph F. Johnston's army, which was retiring up through North Carolina. Taking maximum advantage of Danville's hilly terrain, the 2 Southern forces would make a determined stand against the converging armies of Grant and Maj. Gen. William T. Sherman. But Grant moved too fast for the plan to materialize, and Lee waited 24 hours in vain at Amelia Court House for trains to arrive with badly needed supplies. Federal cavalry, meanwhile, sped forward and cut the Richmond & Danville at Jetersville. Lee had to abandon the railroad, and his army stumbled across rolling country in an effort to reach Lynchburg, another supply base that could be defended. Union horsemen seized the vital rail junction at Burkeville as Federal infantry continued to dog the Confederates.

 

On 6 Apr. almost one-fourth of Lees army was trapped and captured at Sayler's Creek. Lee, at Farmville when he received news of the disaster, led his remaining 30,000 men in a north-by-west arc across the Appomattox River and toward Lynchburg. In the meantime, Grant, with 4 times as many men, sent Maj. Gen. Phillip H. Sheridan's cavalry and most of 2 infantry corps on a hard, due-west march from Farmville to Appomattox Station. Reaching the railroad first the Federals blocked Lees only line of advance.

 

On the morning of 9 Apr. Confederate probes tested the Union lines and found them to be too strong. Lees options were now gone. That afternoon, "Palm Sunday", Lee met Grant in the front parlor of Wilmer McLean's home to discuss peace terms.

 

(Snip)

 

The acting leaves...something to be desired.

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The Surrender At Appomattox Court House

Horace Porter, Brevet Brigadier General, U.S.A.

 

A little before noon on the 7th of April, 1865, General Grant, with his staff, rode into the little village of Farmville, on the south side of the Appomattox River, a town that will be memorable in history as the place where he opened the correspondence with Lee which led to the surrender of the Army of Northern Virginia. He drew up in front of the village hotel, dismounted, and established headquarters on its broad piazza' News came in that Crook was fighting large odds with his cavalry on the north side of the river, and I was directed to go to his front and see what was necessary to be done to assist him. I found that he was being driven back, the enemy (Munford's and Rosser's cavalry divisions under Fitzhugh Lee) having made a bold stand north of the river. Humphreys was also on the north side, isolated from the rest of our infantry, confronted by a large portion of Lee's army, and having some very heavy fighting. On my return to general headquarters that evening Wright's corps was ordered to cross the river and move rapidly to the support of our troops there. Notwithstanding their long march that day, the men sprang to their feet with a spirit that made every one marvel at their pluck, and came swinging through the main street of the village with a step that seemed as elastic as on the first day of their toilsome tramp. It was now dark, but they spied the general-in-chief watching them with evident pride from the piazza of the hotel.

 

Then was witnessed one of the most inspiring scenes of the campaign. Bonfires were lighted on the sides of the street, the men seized straw and pine knots, and improvised torches; cheers arose from throats already hoarse with shouts of victory, bands played, banners waved, arms were tossed high in air and caught again. The night march had become a grand review, with Grant as the reviewing officer.

 

Ord and Gibbon had visited the general at the hotel, and he had spoken with them as well as with Wright about sending some communication to Lee that might pave the way to the stopping of further bloodshed. Dr. Smith, formerly of the regular army, a native of Virginia and a relative of General Ewell, now one of our prisoners, had told General Grant the night before that Ewell had said in conversation that their cause was lost when they crossed the James River, and he considered that it was the duty of the authorities to negotiate for peace then, while they still had a right to claim concessions, adding that now they were not in condition to claim anything. He said that for every man killed after this somebody would be responsible, and it would be little better than murder. He could not tell what General Lee would do, but he hoped he would at once surrender his army. This statement, together with the news that had been received from Sheridan saying that he had heard that General Lee's trains of provisions which had come by rail were at Appomattox, and that he expected to capture them before Lee could reach them, induced the general to write the following communication:

 

(Snip)

 

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HdQrs Army of No Va

10th April 1865

General Order

No 9

After four years of arduous service marked by unsurpassed courage and fortitude, the Army of Northern Virginia has been compelled to yield to overwhelming numbers and resources.

I need not tell the brave survivors of so many hard fought battles who have remained steadfast to the last that I have consented to this result from no distrust of them; but feeling that valour and devotion could accomplish nothing that would compensate for the loss that would have attended the continuance of the contest, I determined to avoid the useless sacrifice of those whose past services have endeared them to their Countrymen.

By the terms of the Agreement officers and men can return to their homes and remain there until exchanged.

You will take with you the satisfaction that proceeds from the consciousness of duty faithfully performed, and I earnestly pray that a Merciful God will extend to you his blessing and protection.

With an unceasing admiration of your constancy and devotion to your country and a grateful remembrance of your kind and generous consideration for myself, I bid you all an affectionate farewell.

R. E. Lee

Genl

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