The American Civil War, The End: Appomattox
Edited by: Robert Guisepi
"At the sound of that machine-like snap of arms, General Gordon started, caught in a moment its significance, and instantly assumed the finest attitude of a soldier. He wheeled his horse, facing me, touching him gently with the spur, so that the animal slightly reared, and, as he wheeled, horse and rider made one motion, the horse's head swung down with a graceful bow, and General Gordon dropped his sword-point to his toe in salutation."
J. L. Chamberlain
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 Danvilles 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.
The End at Appomattox
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.
OF THE U. S.
GENERAL R. E. LEE, Commanding C. S. A.:
The results of the last week must convince you of the hopelessness of further resistance on the part of the Army of Northern Virginia in this struggle. I feel that it is so, and regard it as my duty to shift from myself the responsibility of any further effusion of blood by asking of you the surrender of that portion of the Confederate States army known as the Army of Northern Virginia.
U. S. Grant,
entrusted to General Seth Williams, adjutant-general,
with directions to take it to Humphreys's front, as his
corps was close up to the enemy's rear-guard, and have
it sent into Lee's lines. The general decided to re all
night at Farmville and await the reply from Lee, and he
was shown to a room in the hotel in which, he was told,
Lee had slept the night before. Lee wrote the following
reply within an hour after he received General Grant's
letter, but it was brought in by rather a circuitous
route and did not reach its destination till after
April 7th, 1865
GENERAL: I have received your note of this date. Though not entertaining the opinion you express of the hopelessness of further resistance on the part of the Army of Northern Virginia, I reciprocate your desire to avoid useless effusion of blood, and therefore, before considering your proposition, ask the terms you will offer on condition of its surrender.
morning before leaving Farmville the following reply was
given to General Williams, who again went to Humphreys's
front to have it transmitted to Lee:
April 8th, 1865
GENERAL R. E. LEE,
Your note of last evening in reply to mine of the same date, asking the conditions on which I will accept the surrender of the Army of Northern Virginia, is just received. In reply I would say that, peace being my great desire, there is but one condition I would insist upon-namely, that the men and officers surrendered shall be disqualified for taking up arms against the Government of the United States until properly exchanged. I will meet you, or will designate officers to meet any officers you may name for the same purpose, at any point agreeable to you, for the purpose of arranging definitely the terms upon which the surrender of the Army of Northern Virginia will be received.
U. S. GRANT,
There turned up
at this time a rather hungry-looking gentleman in gray,
in the uniform of a colonel, who proclaimed himself the
proprietor of the hotel. He said his regiment had
crumbled to pieces, he was the only man left in it, and
he thought he might as well "stop off " at home. His
story was significant as indicating the disintegrating
process that was going on in the ranks of the enemy.