Johnston Finally Able to Surrender His Army

April 26, 1865 (Wednesday)

General Sherman had apparently overstepped his bounds, wishing to treat with the entire Confederacy rather than simply Joe Johnston’s army. In his mind, he wanted to wrap the entire war up in one fell swoop and thought that the capitulation of all the remaining Rebel forces, as well as the reestablishment of civil governments of the seceded states, was the way to go about it. In the eyes of Washington, he was wrong. Both General Grant and Secretary of War Edwin Stanton wanted him to deal only with the Confederate army before him, and Grant had arrived with the message to make sure that all went according to plan.


On the day previous, Sherman dealt some with the fall out, writing to Stanton an explanation for what he tried to accomplish.

“I admit my folly in embracing in a military convention any civil matters,” he wrote, “but, unfortunately, such is the nature of our situation that they seem inextricably united, and I understood from you at Savannah that the financial state of the country demanded military success, and would warrant a little bending to policy.”

Sherman, when he first met with Johnston, looked toward two examples for terms. First, he wanted to mirror the terms Grant had put forward for Lee’s surrender. Second, however, he wanted to implement the policy that nearly went into effect in Virginia – that of allowing the state government to continue to function. He thought it the best policy, and also believed that was what Lincoln had wanted. Sherman did not know that Lincoln had rescinded and re-explained the order for Virginia shortly before he was murdered. Now things were different.

“I still believe the General Government of the United States has made a mistake,” he said in closing, “but that is none of my business – mine is a different task….” And with that, Sherman had arranged with Johnston to meet once more at the Bennett House.


Joe Johnston had been faced with a decision apart from whether or not he should surrender. Though President Davis had relented to a full capitulation of all military forces when that was still on the table, he had reconsidered. On the 25th, Johnston received a message from the Secretary of War, John Breckinridge, which had obviously come from Davis.

It was suggested that the infantry could be disbanded prior to any surrender and then moved to some other place farther south. The cavalry, especially, could simply be brought off, along with any other soldiers who could find mounts. Even some artillery might be spared. Johnston later explained his decision.

“I objected, immediately, that this order provided for the performance of but one of the three great duties then devolving upon us—that of securing the safety of the high civil officers of the Confederate Government; but neglected the other two—the safety of the people, and that of the army. I also advised the immediate flight of the high civil functionaries under proper escort.

“The belief that impelled me to urge the civil authorities of the Confederacy to make peace, that it would be a great crime to prolong the war, prompted me to disobey these instructions—the last that I received from the Confederate Government. They would have given the President an escort too heavy for flight, and not strong enough to force a way for him; and would have spread ruin over all the South, by leading the three great invading armies in pursuit. In that belief, I determined to do all in my power to bring about a termination of hostilities.”

And with that, Johnston agreed to meet with Sherman on this date.

They met in a downstairs room, but all did not go well. Johnston believed that basing the terms on those set for Lee’s army was a bad idea. His reasoning was that, as he explained to Sherman, “the disbanding of General Lee’s army has afflicted this country with numerous bands having no means of subsistence but robbery, a knowledge of which would, I am sure, induce you to agree to other conditions.”


But what other conditions could Sherman offer? He was certain that if they deviated in any way from Grant’s to Lee Washington wouldn’t approve them. This was solved by General John Schofield, who had accompanied Sherman and was waiting out side.

“At length I was summoned to their presence,” wrote Schofield after the war, “and informed in substance that they were unable to arrange the terms of capitulation to their satisfaction. They seemed discouraged at the failure of the arrangement to which they had attached so much importance…. I listened to their statements of the difficulties they had encountered, and then stated how I thought they could all be arranged.”

Basically, after all this was over, Schofield would still remain in command of the military department. Essentially, Sherman could offer, and Johnston could accept, the same terms offered by Grant to Lee, and Schofield could then offer a set of supplements which he termed the “Military Convention of April 26.”

Schofield immediately sat down and wrote these out. While the main terms were identical to Grant’s, these were the amendments:

1. The field transportation to be loaned to the troops for their march to their homes, and for subsequent use in their industrial pursuits. Artilleryhorses may be used in field transportation, if necessary.

2. Each brigade or separate body to retain a number of arms equal to one-seventh of its effective strength, which, when the troops reach the capitals of their States, will be disposed of as the general commanding the department may direct.

3. Private horses, and other private property of both officers and men, to be retained by them.

4. The commanding general of the Military Division of West Mississippi, Major-General Canby, will be requested to give transportation by water, from Mobile or New Orleans, to the troops from Arkansas and Texas.

5. The obligations of officers and soldiers to be signed by their immediate commanders.

6. Naval forces within the limits of General Johnston’s command to be included in the terms of this convention.

Both Generals Sherman and Johnston agreed and signed. “I believe that is the best we can do,” said Johnston when it was over.

Following Sherman’s departure, Johnston sent this message to the governors of the concerned states:

“The disaster in Virginia, the capture by the enemy of all our workshops for the preparation of ammunition and repairing of arms, the impossibility of recruiting our little army opposed to more than ten times its number, or of supplying it except by robbing our own citizens, destroyed all hope of successful war. I have made, therefore, a military convention with Major-General Sherman, to terminate hostilities in North and South Carolina, Georgia, and Florida. I made this convention to spare the blood of this gallant little army, to prevent further sufferings of our people by the devastation and ruin inevitable from the marches of invading armies, and to avoid the crime of waging a hopeless war.”

When Sherman returned to his headquarters in Raleigh, he showed the terms to Grant, who approved them without hesitation. Major Henry Hitchock, of Sherman’s staff, described the evening’s festivities in a letter home to his wife:

“I wish you could look in at the scene here tonight at our Headquarters, – the Governor’s mansion. Quite a crowd of officers have been sitting and standing all the evening on the portico in front; a fine brass band playing in a large yard in front of the house since 8 o’clock; and a little while ago, looking through the front window of the right hand parlor, from the portico, one could see Grant and Sherman sitting at the center table, both busy writing, or stopping now and then to talk earnestly with the other general officers in the room – Howard, Schofield, ‘Johnny Logan,’ and Meigs.”

General Grant would leave the following day, and Sherman would soon follow. The two largest armies of the Confederacy were now no more.1

  1. Sources: Official Records, Series 1, Vol. 47, Part 3, p304; Memoirs by William Tecumseh Sherman; Marching With Sherman by Henry Hitchcock; Forty-Six Years in the Army by John Schofield; Narrative of Military Operations by Joseph Johnston. []

Sherman and Johnston Discuss Terms

April 18, 1865 (Tuesday)

William Tecumseh Sherman had left City Point in the Richmond area, where he was visiting with General Grant, at the end of the month previous. While Grant pursued Lee’s retreating army, Sherman reorganized and readied his own in Goldsboro, North Carolina to move not against Joe Johnston’s Army of Tennessee at Smithfield, but to make for Virginia. It was now an army consisting of nearly 90,000 men.

William Tecumseh Sherman

William Tecumseh Sherman

With this host, he planned to “do the enemy as much harm as possible, while en route to the Roanoke River. The march was to have begun on the 10th of April, but when news of the fall of Richmond and Petersburg was received on the 6th, things were changed. Sherman assumed that Lee could get away and would soon join Johnston.

“I at once altered the foregoing orders,” Sherman recalled, “and prepared on the day appointed, viz., April 10th, to move straight on Raleigh, against the army of General Johnston, known to be at Smithfield, and supposed to have about thirty-five thousand men.”

And so, on the 10th, Sherman’s army, now with three wings instead of two, marched on Smithfield, fifty miles away. The 11th brought them to Smithfield, which they found to be vacated by the Rebels, who had “retreated hastily on Raleigh, burning the bridges.” That night, Sherman learned that Lee had surrendered.

“Of course, this created a perfect furore of rejoicing, and we all regarded the war as over, for I knew well that General Johnston had no army with which to oppose mine. So that the only questions that remained were, would he surrender at Raleigh? Or would he allow his army to disperse into guerrilla-bands, to ‘die in the last ditch,’ and entail on his country an indefinite and prolonged military occupation, and of consequent desolation? I knew well that Johnston’s army could not be caught; the country was too open; and, without wagons, the men could escape us, disperse, and assemble again at some place agreed on, and thus the war might be prolonged indefinitely.”

As Sherman’s cavalry battled with Johnston’s, his main body drew closer to Raleigh. Before the gates of the city, Sherman was met by representatives for North Carolina’s governor, Zebulon Vance. It seemed that Vance, having heard what Sherman did to Columbia, wished for Raleigh and its citizenry to be spared the same fate. Sherman, told them to “assure the Governor and the people that the war was substantially over, and that I wanted the civil authorities to remain in the execution of their office till the pleasure of the President could be ascertained.”

When Joe Johnston heard of Lee’s surrender late in the afternoon of April 12th. That night, he met with President Davis, who had fled himself to nearby Greensboro. There, he gathered not only Johnston, but P.G.T. Beauregard and Secretary of War John Breckinridge, who had carried with him these sad tidings. Davis contended that though things certainly appeared to be terrible, all was not lost, it was “not fatal,” he asserted. “I think we can whip the enemy if your people will turn out,” he was supposed to have said.

Johnston fell silent, and Davis grew uncomfortable enough to ask for his views. From across the room, as Johnston sat as far away from Davis as possible, he let his views be known: “Sir, my views are, that our people are tired of war, feel themselves whipped, and will not fight!”

He was not finished. The enemy was too powerful, he continued, and they grew more powerful each passing day. How could they be opposed? “My men,” Johnston closed, “are, daily, deserting in large numbers, and are taking my artillery teams to aid their escape to their homes. Since Lee’s defeat, they regard the war as at an end. If I march out of North Carolina her people will all leave my ranks. It will be the same as I proceed south through South Carolina and Georgia, and I shall expect to retain no man beyond the by-road or cow-path that leads to his house. My small force is melting away like snow before the sun, and I am hopeless of recruiting it. We may, perhaps, obtain terms which we ought to accept.”

Joseph Johnston

Joseph Johnston

Davis, no doubt pleased that Johnston had finally shut up, turned to Beauregard. But to his dismay, Beauregard agreed with Johnston. Breckinridge also agreed, and wanted Johnston to draft a letter asking for terms. Johnston, however, thought it best if it came from Davis. It read:

“The results of the recent campaign in Virginia have changed the relative military condition of the belligerents. I am, therefore, induced to address you in this form the inquiry whether, to stop the further effusion of blood and devastation of property, you are willing to make a temporary suspension of active operations, and to communicate to Lieutenant-General Grant, commanding the armies of the United States, the request that he will take like action in regard to other armies, the object being to permit the civil authorities to enter into the needful arrangements to terminate the existing war.”

The next day, Sherman received the letter, replying:

I have this moment received your communication of this date. I am fully empowered to arrange with you any terms for the suspension of further hostilities between the armies commanded by you and those commanded by myself‘, and will be willing to confer with you to that end. I will limit the advance of my main column, to-morrow, to Morrisville, and the cavalry to the university, and expect that you will also maintain the present position of your forces until each has notice of a failure to agree. That a basis of action may be had, I undertake to abide by the same terms and conditions as were made by Generals Grant and Lee at Appomattox Court-House, on the 9th instant, relative to our two armies; and, furthermore, to obtain from General Grant an order to suspend the movements of any troops from the direction of Virginia. General Stoneman is under my command, and my order will suspend any devastation or destruction contemplated by him. I will add that I really desire to save the people of North Carolina the damage they would sustain by the march of this army through the central or western parts of the State.

By the 16th, Johnston and Sherman had agreed to meet in the town of Durham on the 17th. Sherman was about to leave on the 16th when he received a telegram from Secretary of War Edwin Stanton, informing him of the assassination of President Lincoln, as well as the attempt on Secretary of State William Seward. With that, and after swearing the telegraph operator to secrecy, Sherman departed, arriving in Durham at 10am.

They met in a small farm house owned by a Mr. Bennett, and before long, the two were on friendly enough terms. Sherman disclosed the telegraph from Stanton, and Johnston, according to Sherman, “denounced the act as a disgrace to the age, and hoped I did not charge it to the Confederate Government.” Sherman couldn’t believe that either Johnston or Lee was responsible, “but I would not say as much for Jeff Davis.” Sherman worried that word of the assassination might cause his men to level Raleigh, the closest Rebel city, as revenge, and wished to avoid such a fate.

The Bennett Place

The Bennett Place

Then it was down to the business at hand.

“I then told Johnston that he must be convinced that he could not oppose my army, and that, since Lee had surrendered, he could do the same with honor and propriety. He plainly and repeatedly admitted this, and added that any further fighting would be ‘murder,’ but he thought that, instead of surrendering piecemeal, we might arrange terms that would embrace all the Confederate armies. I asked him if he could control other armies than his own; he said, not then, but intimated that he could procure authority from Mr. Davis. I then told him that-I had recently had an interview with General Grant and President Lincoln, and that I was possessed of their views ; that with them and the people North there seemed to be no vindictive feeling against the Confederate armies, but there was against Davis and his political adherents; and that the terms that General Grant had given to General Lee’s army were certainly most generous and liberal. All this he admitted, but always recurred to the idea of a universal surrender, embracing his own army, that of Dick Taylor in Louisiana and Texas, and of Maury, Forrest, and others, in Alabama and Georgia.”

According to Johnston, Sherman entertained this idea:
“We then entered into a discussion of the terms that might be given to the Southern States, on their submission to the authority of the United States. General Sherman seemed to regard the resolutions of Congress and the declarations of the President of the United States as conclusive that the restoration of the Union was the object of the war, and to believe that the soldiers of the United States had been fighting for that object. A long official conversation with Mr. Lincoln, on Southern affairs a very short time before, had convinced him that the President then adhered to that view.”

The next day, they met again, and Sherman drafted these terms:

1. The contending armies now in the field to maintain the status quo until notice is given by the commanding general of any one to its opponent, and reasonable time—say, forty-eight hours—allowed.

2. The Confederate armies now in. existence to be disbanded and conducted to their several State capitals, there to deposit their arms and public property in the State Arsenal; and each officer and man to execute and file an agreement to cease from acts of war, and to abide the action of the State and Federal authority. The number of arms and munitions of war to be reported to the Chief of Ordnance at Washington City, subject to the future action of the Congress of the United States, and, in the mean time, to be used solely to maintain peace and order within the borders of the States respectively. .

3. The recognition, by the Executive of the United States, of the sever State governments, on their officers and Legislatures taking the oaths prescribed by the Constitution of the United States, and, where conflicting State governments have resulted from the war, the legitimacy of all shall be submitted to the Supreme Court of the United States.

4. The reestablishment of all the Federal Courts in the several States, with powers as defined by the Constitution of the United States and of the States respectively.

5. The people and inhabitants of all the States to be guaranteed, so far as the Executive can, their political rights and franchises, as well as their rights of person and property, as defined by the Constitution of the United States and of the States respectively.

6. The Executive authority of the Government of the United States not to disturb any of the people by reason of the late war, so long as they live in peace and quiet, abstain from acts of armed hostility, and obey the laws in existence at the place of their residence.

7. In general terms—the war to cease; a general amnesty, so far as the Executive of the United States can command, on condition of the disbandment of the Confederate armies, the distribution of the arms, and the resumption of peaceful pursuits by the officers and men hitherto composing said armies.

Not being fully empowered by our respective principals to fulfill these terms, we individually and officially pledge ourselves to promptly obtain the necessary authority, and to carry out the above programme.

And that was, of course, the rub. Sherman was overstepping his authority, but with the proper permission from Washington, by doing so, he could wrap up the entire war right here in Durham. The next day, he would telegraph the contents to Washington and wait for the reply.1

  1. Sources: Memoirs by William Tecumseh Sherman; Narrative of Military Operations by Joseph Johnston; Joseph E. Johnston by Craig L. Symonds. []

‘A Final and Fitting Tribute’ – The Formal Surrender of Lee’s Army

April 12, 1865 (Wednesday)

“It was a chill gray morning, depressing to the senses. But our hearts made warmth.” – General Joshua Chamberlain

Surrender of the Army of Northern Virginia to the Army of the Potomac by John R. Chapin

Surrender of the Army of Northern Virginia to the Army of the Potomac by John R. Chapin


Though Robert E. Lee had surrendered on the 9th, the formal ceremony did not occur until this date. During this, the arms would be stacked and the flags folded. This was done by General Grant’s orders, though he would not be there to witness it. Neither would General Meade.

The task and honor fell upon General Joshua Chamberlain. “Grant wished the ceremony to be as simple as possible,” wrote Chamberlain after the war, “and that nothing should be done to humiliate the manhood of the Southern soldiers.”

The ceremony was to begin at 9am, and at that hour, the Confederate, marching once more in column, came into view.

General Joshua Chamberlain:

We formed along the principal street, from the bluff bank of the stream to near the Court House on the left,–to face the last line of battle, and receive the last remnant of the arms and colors of that great army which ours had been created to confront for all that death can do for life. We were remnants also: Massachusetts, Maine, Michigan, Maryland, Pennsylvania, New York; veterans, and replaced veterans; cut to pieces, cut down, consolidated, divisions into brigades, regiments into one, gathered by State origin; this little line, quintessence or metempsychosis of Porter’s old corps of Gaines’ Mill and Malvern Hill; men of near blood born, made nearer by blood shed. Those facing us-now, thank God! the same. […]

The momentous meaning of this occasion impressed me deeply. I resolved to mark it by some token of recognition, which could be no other than a salute of arms. Well aware of the responsibility assumed, and of the criticisms that would follow, as the sequel proved, nothing of that kind could move me in the least. The act could be defended, if needful, by the suggestion that such a salute was not to the cause for which the flag of the Confederacy stood, but to its going down before the flag of the Union. My main reason, however, was one for which I sought no authority nor asked forgiveness. Before us in proud humiliation stood the embodiment of manhood: men whom neither toils and sufferings, nor the fact of death, nor disaster, nor hopelessness could bend from their resolve; standing before us now, thin, worn, and famished, but erect, and with eyes looking level into ours, waking memories that bound us together as no other bond;–was not such manhood to be welcomed back into a Union so tested and assured?

John Brown Gordon:

As my command, in worn-out shoes and ragged uniforms, but with proud mien, moved to the designated point to stack their arms and surrender their cherished battle-flags, they challenged the admiration of the brave victors. One of the knightliest soldiers of the Federal army, General Joshua L. Chamberlain of Maine, who afterward served with distinction as governor of his State, called his troops into line, and as my men marched in front of them, the veterans in blue gave a soldierly salute to those vanquished heroes — a token of respect from Americans to Americans, a final and fitting tribute from Northern to Southern chivalry.

General Chamberlain:

Gordon at the head of the column, riding with heavy spirit and downcast face, catches the sound of shifting arms, looks up, and, taking the meaning, wheels superbly, making with himself and his horse one uplifted figure, with profound salutation as he drops the point of his sword to the boot toe; then facing to his own command, gives word for his successive brigades to pass us with the same position of the manual,–honor answering honor. On our part not a sound of trumpet more, nor roll of drum; not a cheer, nor word nor whisper of vain-glorying, nor motion of man standing again at the order, but an awed stillness rather, and breath-holding, as if it were the passing of the dead!

In this way, each brigade and division passed until 4pm when the former soldiers of the Confederacy returned to their camps. By that time, Lee had already left for Richmond.

The next morning, 27,000 men would receive their paroles. “Now on the morrow,” Chamberlain concluded, “over all the hillsides in the peaceful sunshine, are clouds of men on foot or horse, singly or in groups, making their earnest way as by the instinct of the ant, each with his own little burden, each for his own little home. And we are left alone, and lonesome.”

‘I bid you an affectionate farewell’ – General Lee to His Troops

April 10, 1865 (Monday)

Postcard of McLean House

Postcard of McLean House

There came then soft rains, falling only slightly thicker than mist upon the blue and gray soldiers bivouacked in and around Appomattox Court House. Though General Lee had surrendered, the Union picket lines still held their formation, and mixing between the two armies, save higher ranking officers, had not yet come to be. The Confederates, arms stacked, held weak vigil over their camps, but for them the heavy war was at an end, though peace seemed foreign and incomprehensible.

General George Meade, who had battled Lee since the terrible summer of 1863, was not at the surrender. Through the rains, he rode now to meet with his adversary.

“Passing our picket line,” wrote Theodore Lyman of Meade’s staff, “and continuing on the main stage road we came among groups of rebel soldiers, standing listlessly about.” As they reached the Southern tents, Meade sent Lyman forward to find General Lee. There, he found General Charles Field, commanding Hood’s old division. This sullen gentleman escorted him to Lee’s headquarters in a nearby woods.

On the way, Lyman saw the condition of his former enemies. “They rebel infantry was camped, or rather bivouacked, along the road,” he wrote that night, “with their muskets stacked and the regimental colors planted. They appeared to have very little to eat and very few shelter tents. The number of men actually organized seemed small, their bivouacs did not appear larger than those of a weak corps.”

Lee was not at his headquarters, and was perhaps meeting with General Grant at this time. Fields and Lyman rode on, meeting up with Meade and shortly coming upon Lee.

“He looked in a brown study,” Lyman observed, “and gazed vacantly when Meade saluted him. But he recovered himself and said ‘What are you doing with all that gray in your beard?’ ‘That you have a good deal to do with!’ said our General promptly.”

New York Times, April 10, 1865.

New York Times, April 10, 1865.

As the two generals talked, Lyman took in all he could of this legend of Virginia. “Lee is a tall, strongly made man,” he penned, “With a florid but not fat face. His thick hair and beard, now nearly white, are somewhat closely trimmed. His head is large and high; the eye dark, clear, and unusually deep. His expression is not that of genius, or dash; but of wisdom, coolness, and real determination. His manners are courtly and reserved (now unusually so, of course). Though proud and manly to the last, he seemed deeply dejected.”

Earlier, General Grant had also met with Lee. E. Porter Alexander referred to it as “a friendly conference.” Grant asked Lee if he believed that the surrender of the Army of Northern Virginia would lead as an example for the remaining armies of the Confederacy, inducing them to surrender “without additional bloodshed.” Still in the field was the army under Joe Johnston in North Carolina, as well as Richard Taylor’s forces in Alabama, and Kirby Smith’s troops of the Trans-Mississippi.

Lee considered this and figured that it would. “Grant suggested that Lee should go to North Carolina and confer with President Davis,” remembered Alexander, “and endeavor to promote the prompt advent of peace.” Lee, however, thought that it would be overstepping his authority as a military commander to attempt to influence the political. “I think there is no doubt that Mr. Davis would have considered it a great intrusion,” Alexander concluded.

By the time that Grant returned to the McLean house, “officers of both armies came in great numbers, and seemed to enjoy the meeting as much as though they had been friends separated for a long time while fighting battles under the same flag. For the time being it looked very much as if all thought the war had escaped their minds.”

Grant left shortly for Washington, but Theodore Lyman also found himself at the McLean house. There he saw James Longstreet and John Gordon mingling with old friends. And suddenly from behind, Lyman heard “How are you Ted?” When he turned, he saw his comrade from before the war, Roonie Lee. They had been classmates together at Harvard, and even joined the rowing team together.

“Poor Roonie!” lamented Lyman. “You lost that boat-race in college by careless training, and now you have lost a four-year race, and with it everything!”

That late morning, General Lee wrote a sort of farewell to his beloved army.

Headquarters, Army of Northern Virginia, 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 survivors of so many hard fought battles, who have remained steadfast to the last, that I have consented to the result from no distrust of them.

But feeling that valour and devotion could accomplish nothing that could compensate for the loss that must have attended the continuance of the contest, I have 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 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 an affectionate farewell.

— R. E. Lee, General, General Order No. 9

.((Sources: Meade’s Army by Theodore Lyman; Fighting for the Confederacy by E. Porter Alexander; Memoirs by Ulysses S. Grant.))

The Surrender of General Lee – Appomattox Court House (Part 2)

This is Part Two. To read Part One, please click here.

April 9, 1865 (Sunday – Afternoon through evening)

One of many inaccurate prints of the surrender.

One of many inaccurate prints of the surrender.

General Grant, from his Memoirs:

Before stating what took place between General Lee and myself, I will give all there is of the story of the famous apple tree.

Wars produce many stories of fiction, some of which are told until they are believed to be true. The war of the rebellion was no exception to this rule, and the story of the apple tree is one of those fictions based on a slight foundation of fact. As I have said, there was an apple orchard on the side of the hill occupied by the Confederate forces. Running diagonally up the hill was a wagon road, which, at one point, ran very near one of the trees, so that the wheels of vehicles had, on that side, cut off the roots of this tree, leaving a little embankment. General Babcock, of my staff, reported to me that when he first met General Lee he was sitting upon this embankment with his feet in the road below and his back resting against the tree. The story had no other foundation than that. Like many other stories, it would be very good if it was only true.

McLean House (c.1950) by Theodore Horydczak.

McLean House (c.1950) by Theodore Horydczak.

Horace Porter, of Grant’s staff, from Campaigning with Grant:

About one o’clock the little village of Appomattox Court-house, with its halfdozen houses, came in sight, and soon we were entering its single street. It is situated on rising ground, and beyond it the country slopes down into a broad valley. The enemy was seen with his columns and wagon-trains covering the low ground. Our cavalry, the Fifth Corps, and part of Ord’s command were occupying the high ground to the south and west of the enemy, heading him off completely. We saw a group of officers who had dismounted and were standing at the edge of the town, and at their head we soon recognized the features of Sheridan.

Another inaccurate print.

Another inaccurate print.

Philip Sheridan, from his Memoirs:

“How are you, Sheridan?” [asked Grant.] I assured him with thanks that I was “first-rate,” when, pointing toward the village, he asked, “Is General Lee up there?” and I replied: “There is his army down in that valley, and he himself is over in that house (designating McLean’s house) waiting to surrender to you.” The General then said, “Come, let us go over,” this last remark being addressed to both Ord and me. We two then mounted and joined him, while our staff-officers followed, intermingling with those of the general-in-chief as the cavalcade took its way to McLean’s house near by, and where General Lee had arrived some time before, in consequence of a message from General Grant consenting to the interview asked for by Lee through Meade’s front that morning—the consent having been carried by Colonel Babcock.

McLean House (1965) by Timothy O'Sullivan.

McLean House (1965) by Timothy O’Sullivan.

General Grant:

I had known General Lee in the old army, and had served with him in the Mexican War; but did not suppose, owing to the difference in our age and rank, that he would remember me, while I would more naturally remember him distinctly, because he was the chief of staff of General Scott in the Mexican War.

When I had left camp that morning I had not expected so soon the result that was then taking place, and consequently was in rough garb. I was without a sword, as I usually was when on horseback on the field, and wore a soldier’s blouse for a coat, with the shoulder straps of my rank to indicate to the army who I was. When I went into the house I found General Lee. We greeted each other, and after shaking hands took our seats. I had my staff with me, a good portion of whom were in the room during the whole of the interview.

Grant from West Point to Appomattox

Grant from West Point to Appomattox

Horace Porter:

The general passed in, and as Lee arose and stepped forward, Grant extended his hand, saying, “General Lee,” and the two shook hands cordially. The members of the staff, Generals Sheridan and Ord, and some other general officers who had gathered in the front yard, remained outside, feeling that General Grant would probably prefer his first interview with General Lee to be, in a measure, private. In a few minutes Colonel Babcock came to the front door, and, making a motion with his hat toward the sitting room, said: “The general says come in.”

Another inaccurate print of the surrender.

Another inaccurate print of the surrender.

Col. Charles Marshall, from Lee’s Aide-de-Camp:

In about half an hour we heard horses, and the first thing I knew General Grant walked into the room. There were with him General Sheridan, General Ord, Colonel Badeau, General Porter, Colonel Parker, and quite a number of other officers whose names I do not recall.

General Lee was standing at the end of the room opposite the door when General Grant walked in. General Grant had on a sack coat, a loose fatigue coat, but he had no side arms. He looked as though he had had a pretty hard time. He had been riding and his clothes were somewhat dusty and a little soiled. He walked up to General Lee and Lee recognized him at once. He had known him in the Mexican war. General Grant greeted him in the most cordial manner, and talked about the weather and other things in a very friendly way. Then General Grant brought up his officers and introduced them to General Lee.

McLean House (c.1950) by Theodore Horydczak.

McLean House (c.1950) by Theodore Horydczak.

Horace Porter:

We walked in softly, and ranged ourselves quietly about the sides of the room, very much as people enter a sick-chamber when they expect to find the patient dangerously ill. Some found seats on the sofa standing against the wall between the two doors and on the few plain chairs which constituted the furniture, but most of the party stood.

McLean House (probably 1930s)

McLean House (probably 1930s)

General Grant:

What General Lee’s feelings were I do not know. As he was a man of much dignity, with an impassible face, it was impossible to say whether he felt inwardly glad that the end had finally come, or felt sad over the result, and was too manly to show it. Whatever his feelings, they were entirely concealed from my observation; but my own feelings, which had been quite jubilant on the receipt of his letter, were sad and depressed. I felt like anything rather than rejoicing 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, and one for which there was the least excuse. I do not question, however, the sincerity of the great mass of those who were opposed to us.

Still another inaccurate print of the surrender (note: Meade?)

Still another inaccurate print of the surrender (note: Meade?)

Charles Marshall:

I remember that General Lee asked for General Lawrence Williams, of the Army of the Potomac. That very morning General Williams had sent word by somebody to General Lee that Custis Lee, who had been captured at Sailor Creek and was reported killed, was not hurt, and General Lee asked General Grant where General Williams was, and if he could not send for him to come and see him. General Grant sent somebody out for General Williams, and when he came, General Lee thanked him for having sent him word about the safety of his son.

McLean House, 1865 by Timothy O'Sullivan.

McLean House, 1865 by Timothy O’Sullivan.

Horace Porter:

Grant began the conversation by saying: “I met you once before, General Lee, while we were serving in Mexico, when you came over from General Scott’s headquarters to visit Garland’s brigade, to which I then belonged. I have always remembered your appearance, and I think I should have recognized you anywhere.” “Yes,” replied General Lee; “I know I met you on that occasion, and I have often thought of it, and tried to recollect how you looked, but I have never been able to recall a single feature.”

Rear of McLean House (probably 1930s)

Rear of McLean House (probably 1930s)

General Grant:

Our conversation grew so pleasant that I almost forgot the object of our meeting. After the conversation had run on in this style for some time, General Lee called my attention to the object of our meeting, and said that he had asked for this interview for the purpose of getting from me the terms I proposed to give his army. I said that I meant merely that his army should lay down their arms, not to take them up again during the continuance of the war unless duly and properly exchanged. He said that he had so understood my letter.

Then we gradually fell off again into conversation about matters foreign to the subject which had brought us together. This continued for some little time, when General Lee again interrupted the course of the conversation by suggesting that the terms I proposed to give his army ought to be written out.

Inaccurate surrender print.

Inaccurate surrender print.

Charles Marshall:

After a very free talk General Lee said to General Grant: ‘General, I have come to meet you in accordance with my letter to you this morning, to treat about the surrender of my army, and I think the best way would be for you to put your terms in writing.’ General Grant said: ‘Yes, I believe it will.’ So a Colonel Parker, General Grant’s Aide-de-Camp, brought a little table over from a corner of the room, and General Grant wrote the terms and conditions of surrender on what we call field note paper, that is, a paper that makes a copy at the same time as the note is written. After he had written it, he took it over to General Lee.

McLean House with Federal soldiers by Timothy O'Sullivan.

McLean House with Federal soldiers by Timothy O’Sullivan.

General Grant:

When I put my pen to the paper I did not know the first word that I should make use of in writing the terms. I only knew what was in my mind, and I wished to express it clearly, so that there could be no mistaking it. As I wrote on, the thought occurred to me that the officers had their own private horses and effects, which were important to them, but of no value to us; also that it would be an unnecessary humiliation to call upon them to deliver their side arms.

Grant’s conditions read:


Ap 9th, 1865.

GEN. R. E. LEE, Comd’g C. S. A.

GEN: In accordance with the substance of my letter to you of the 8th inst., I propose to receive the surrender of the Army of N. Va. on the following terms, to wit: Rolls of all the officers and men to be made in duplicate. One copy to be given to an officer designated by me, the other to be retained by such officer or officers as you may designate. The officers to give their individual paroles not to take up arms against the Government of the United States until properly exchanged, and each company or regimental commander sign a like parole for the men of their commands. The arms, artillery and public property to be parked and stacked, and turned over to the officer appointed by me to receive them. This will not embrace the side-arms of the officers, nor their private horses or baggage. This done, each officer and man will be allowed to return to their homes, not to be disturbed by United States authority so long as they observe their paroles and the laws in force where they may reside.

Very respectfully, U. S. GRANT, Lt. Gen.

Draft of Grant's terms.

Draft of Grant’s terms.

Horace Porter:

As I was standing equally distant from them, with my back to the front window, I stepped forward, took the book, and passed it to General Lee. […] Lee pushed aside some books and two brass candlesticks which were on the table, then took the book and laid it down before him, while he drew from his pocket a pair of steel-rimmed spectacles, and wiped the glasses carefully with his handkerchief. He crossed his legs, adjusted the spectacles very slowly and deliberately, took up the draft of the terms, and proceeded to read them attentively. They consisted of two pages. When he reached the top line of the second page, he looked up, and said to General Grant: “After the words ‘until properly’ the word ‘exchanged’ seems to be omitted. You doubtless intended to use that word.”

“Why, yes,” said Grant; “I thought I had put in the word ‘exchanged.'”

“I presumed it had been omitted inadvertently,” continued Lee; “and, with your permission, I will mark where it should be inserted.”

“Certainly,” Grant replied.

Lee felt in his pocket as if searching for a pencil, but he did not seem to be able to find one. Seeing this, I handed him my lead-pencil. During the rest of the interview he kept twirling this pencil in his fingers and occasionally tapping the top of the table with it. When he handed it back, it was carefully treasured by me as a memento of the occasion. When Lee came to the sentence about the officers’ side-arms, private horses, and baggage, he showed for the first time during the reading of the letter a slight change of countenance, and was evidently touched by this act of generosity. It was doubtless the condition mentioned to which he particularly alluded when he looked toward General Grant, as he finished reading, and said with some degree of warmth in his manner, “This will have a very happy effect upon my army.”

Inaccurate, but in color.

Inaccurate, but in color.

Charles Marshall:

General Lee then said to General Grant: ‘General, our cavalrymen furnish their own horses; they are not Government horses, some of them may be, but of course you will find them out—any property that is public property, you will ascertain that, but it is nearly all private property, and these men will want to plough ground and plant corn.’

General Grant answered that as the terms were written, only, the officers were permitted to take their private property but almost immediately he added that he supposed that most of the men in the ranks were small farmers, and that the United States did not want their horses. He would give orders to allow every man who claimed to own a horse or mule to take the animal home.

McLean House with Federal soldiers by Timothy O'Sullivan.

McLean House with Federal soldiers by Timothy O’Sullivan.

General Grant:

Then, after a little further conversation, General Lee remarked to me again that their army was organized a little differently from the army of the United States (still maintaining by implication that we were two countries); that in their army the cavalrymen and artillerists owned their own horses; and he asked if he was to understand that the men who so owned their horses were to be permitted to retain them. I told him that as the terms were written they would not; that only the officers were permitted to take their private property. He then, after reading over the terms a second time, remarked that that was clear.

I then said to him that I thought this would be about the last battle of the war—I sincerely hoped so; and I said further I took it that most of the men in the ranks were small farmers. The whole country had been so raided by the two armies that it was doubtful whether they would be able to put in a crop to carry themselves and their families through the next winter without the aid of the horses they were then riding. The United States did not want them and I would, therefore, instruct the officers I left behind to receive the paroles of his troops to let every man of the Confederate army who claimed to own a horse or mule take the animal to his home. Lee remarked again that this would have a happy effect.

He then sat down and wrote out the following letter:

General Lee’s reply:


GENERAL:—I received your letter of this date containing the terms of the surrender of the Army of Northern Virginia as proposed by you. As they are substantially the same as those expressed in your letter of the 8th inst., they are accepted. I will proceed to designate the proper officers to carry the stipulations into effect.

R. E. LEE, General.

A fair copy of Grant's terms.

A fair copy of Grant’s terms.

Horace Porter:

While the letters were being copied, General Grant introduced the general officers who had entered, and each member of the staff, to General Lee. The general shook hands with General Seth Williams, who had been his adjutant when Lee was superintendent at West Point some years before the war, and gave his hand to some of the other officers who had extended theirs; but to most of those who were introduced he merely bowed in a dignified and formal manner. He did not exhibit the slightest change of features during this ceremony until Colonel Parker of our staff was presented to him. Parker being a full-blooded Indian, when Lee saw his swarthy features he looked at him with evident surprise, and his eyes rested on him for several seconds. What was passing in his mind no one knew, but the natural surmise was that he at first mistook Parker for a negro, and was struck with astonishment to find that the commander of the Union armies had one of that race on his personal staff.

McLean House with family. By Timothy O'Sullivan.

McLean House with family. By Timothy O’Sullivan.

Charles Marshall:

[W]hile we were talking I heard General Grant say this: ‘Sheridan, how many rations have you?’ General Sheridan said, ‘How many do you want?’ and General Grant said, ‘General Lee has about a thousand or fifteen hundred of our people prisoners, and they are faring the same as his men, but he tells me his haven’t anything. Can you send them some rations?’

‘Yes,’ he answered. They had gotten some of our rations, having captured a train.

General Grant said: ‘How many can you send?’ and he replied ‘Twenty-five thousand rations.’

General Grant asked if that would be enough, and General Lee replied ‘Plenty; plenty; an abundance’; and General Grant said to Sheridan ‘Order your commissary to send to the Confederate Commissary twenty-five thousand rations for our men and his men.’

Palm Sunday - Harper's Weekly

Palm Sunday – Harper’s Weekly

Horace Porter:

Grant’s eye now fell upon Lee’s sword again, and it seemed to remind him of the absence of his own, and by way of explanation, and so that it could not be construed as a discourtesy, he said to Lee:

“I started out from my camp several days ago without my sword, and as I have not seen my headquarters baggage since, I have been riding about without any side-arms. I have generally worn a sword, however, as little as possible—only during the active operations of a campaign.” “I am in the habit of wearing mine most of the time,” remarked Lee, “when I am among my troops moving about through the army.”

General Sheridan now stepped up to General Lee, and said that when he discovered some of the Confederate troops in motion during the morning, which seemed to be a violation of the trace, he had sent him (Lee) a couple of notes protesting against this act, and as he had not had time to copy them, he would like to have them long enough to make copies. Lee took the notes out of the breast pocket of his coat, and handed them to Sheridan, with a few words expressive of regret that the circumstance should have occurred, and intimating that it must have been the result of some misunderstanding.

After a little general conversation had been indulged in by those present, the two letters were signed. Grant signed the terms on the oval table, which was moved up to him again for the purpose. Lee signed his letter of acceptance on the marble-topped table at which he sat. Colonel Parker folded up the terms, and gave them to Colonel Marshall. Marshall handed Lee’s acceptance to Parker.

Robert E. Lee leaving the McLean House following his surrender to Ulysses S. Grant by Alfred Waud

Robert E. Lee leaving the McLean House following his surrender to Ulysses S. Grant by Alfred Waud

Charles Marshall:

There was no theatrical display about it. It was in itself perhaps the greatest tragedy that ever occurred in the history of the world, but it was the simplest, plainest, and most thoroughly devoid of any attempt at effect, that you can imagine.
After that a general conversation took place of a most agreeable character. I cannot describe it. I cannot give you any idea of the kindness, and generosity, and magnanimity of those men. When I think of it, it brings tears to my eyes.

Robert E. Lee leaving the McLean House following his surrender to Ulysses S. Grant by Alfred Waud

Robert E. Lee leaving the McLean House following his surrender to Ulysses S. Grant by Alfred Waud

Horace Porter:

One after another we followed, and passed out to the porch. Lee signaled to his orderly to bring up his horse, and while the animal was being bridled the general stood on the lowest step, and gazed sadly in the direction of the valley beyond, where his army lay—now an army of prisoners. He thrice smote the palm of his left hand slowly with his right fist in an absent sort of way, seemed not to see the group of Union officers in the yard, who rose respectfully at his approach, and appeared unaware of everything about him.

All appreciated the sadness that overwhelmed him, and he had the personal sympathy of every one who beheld him at this supreme moment of trial. The approach of his horse seemed to recall him from his reverie, and he at once mounted. General Grant now stepped down from the porch, moving toward him, and saluted him by raising his hat. He was followed in this act of courtesy by all our officers present. Lee raised his hat respectfully, and rode off at a slow trot to break the sad news to the brave fellows whom he had so long commanded.