General Lee and his dispirited Army of Northern Virginia also evacuated Petersburg and Richmond on April 2. Lee moved his exhausted army southward in a desperate bid to join forces with Johnston's twenty thousand-man force, but the Army of the Potomac immediately gave pursuit. Lee's reduced army of thirty-five thousand men pushed on, spurred by their deep devotion to their commander. But on April 7, Union cavalry under the direction of Sheridan stopped their progress near the little town of Appo-mattox (pronounced app-uh-MAT-tux). As tens of thousands of additional Federal troops closed in from all sides, Lee finally acknowledged that the war had been lost.
On April 8, General Grant sent Lee a note asking him to surrender. Looking over the brave but battered remnants of his Army of Northern Virginia, Lee realized that he had no other choice. Writing in The Civil War, historian Bruce Catton noted that Lee's decision to surrender "came just as Federal infantry and cavalry were ready to make a final, crushing assault on the thin lines in Lee's front. Out between the lines came a Confederate horseman, a white flag fluttering at the end of a staff, and a sudden quiet descended on the broad field. While the soldiers in both armies stared at one another, unable to believe that the fighting at last was over, the commanding generals made their separate ways into the little town to settle things for good."
On the morning of April 9, Lee and Grant met at a small farmhouse to discuss the terms of surrender. Guided by Lincoln's instructions and his own strong desire to begin healing the North's tattered relationship with the South, Grant offered generous terms. He guaranteed that Confederate soldiers who put down their weapons and went home would not be prosecuted for treason in the future. Grant also agreed to Lee's request that Confederate soldiers be allowed to keep the horses that they owned in order "to put in a crop to carry themselves and their family through the next winter." Finally, Grant ordered his army to give food and medicine to Lee's sick and hungry troops.
After Lee and Grant signed the papers explaining the terms of surrender, the two legendary military leaders saluted one another and left the farmhouse to rejoin their armies. Grant later recalled that as he watched Lee leave to go comfort his men, "I felt . . . sad and depressed at the downfall of a foe who had fought so long and valiantly, and had suffered so much for a cause, though that cause was, I believe, one of the worst for which a people ever fought."
f"?; Wilmer McLean Witnesses Ki^ History—Twice
During the course of the Civil War, an elderly Virginian named Wilmer McLean found himself in the thick of two of the conflict's most significant events.
When the Civil War first erupted in the spring of 1861, McLean owned land near the town of Manassas, Virginia. In mid-July, armies from both sides ventured into the area, and Confederate general Pierre G. T. Beauregard (1818-1893) took over McLean's house as his headquarters. A few days later, on July 21, the Civil War's first major military battle took place. This clash at Manassas, commonly known as the First Battle of Bull Run, ended in a decisive Confederate victory.
Beauregard's victory at Bull Run pleased McLean. But the fight also convinced the old man to move elsewhere. Union artillery fire had ripped through McLean's home during the battle, and the elderly Virginian worried that the region might attract other armies in the future.
McLean then moved his family to Appomattox County in southern Virginia, where they spent the next four years in peace. On the morning of April 9, 1865, though, McLean was approached by two mounted soldiers representing the armies of Union general Ulysses S. Grant and
Confederate general Robert E. Lee. The two riders explained that they were looking for a place where the two military leaders might discuss terms of surrender. McLean took them to an empty building in the area, but the riders rejected the site. The elderly Virginian then offered the generals the use of his own home. The two representatives accepted this suggestion, and a few hours later, the two generals entered his parlor to negotiate an end to the long and bloody war.
Lee's surrender signaled the end of the Confederacy's long fight for independence. The Army of
Northern Virginia had always been the South's greatest army, and its defeat made it clear to everyone that the South could no longer resist Lincoln's Union armies. In the meantime, Confederate president Jefferson Davis and several other members of the government had fled from Richmond, and then from Danville. Upon learning of Lee's defeat, Davis initially vowed to continue the fight and made plans to establish a new Confederate capital in Texas. But in the weeks following Lee's surrender at Appomattox, the remaining Confederate armies laid down their weapons. The rebel soldiers then wandered back to their homes, saddened by their defeat but relieved that they had survived a war that had killed so many of their countrymen.
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