This day in history: Surrender Sunday

This is an undated photo of the American Civil War Confederate surrender house at Appomattox...
This is an undated photo of the American Civil War Confederate surrender house at Appomattox Court House, Va. It was at the home of Wilmer McLean that Gen. Robert E. Lee surrendered the Army of Northern Virginia to Gen. Ulysses S. Grant on April 9, 1865. The persons posing on the front porch are not indentified. (AP Photo)(ASSOCIATED PRESS)
Published: Apr. 9, 2023 at 11:30 AM CDT
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APPOMATTOX, Va . (WSFA) - Sunday, April 9th, marks the 158th Anniversary of the Battle of Appomattox Courthouse and Confederate General Robert E. Lee’s surrender of his 28,000 Confederate troops to Union General Ulysses S. Grant, effectively ending the American Civil War.

After a weeklong push westward from Richmond and Petersburg, Virginia, Gen. Robert E. Lee briefly engaged Gen. Ulysses S. Grant before surrendering to the Commanding General of the U.S. Army at Appomattox Court House.

A retreating Confederate army of Northern Virginia moved through the Virginia countryside stripped of food and supplies. Gen. Lee had hoped to resupply in Lynchburg, VA, before heading south. However, an unexpected arrival of the Union cavalry led by Gen. Philip H. Sheridan put a damper on those plans.

Saturday night, Union General George Armstrong Custer successfully led some of the cavalry against the Confederate supply trains at the nearby Appomattox Station. Despite the significant setbacks, Gen. Lee still looked to get to Lynchburg the following day.

On the morning of Sunday, April 9, Gen. Lee ordered his cavalry to attack Sheridan’s cavalry that had the route to Lynchburg blocked. The Confederate forces were heavily outnumbered, with approximately 27,000 soldiers compared to the 63,000 under Union command. However, Lee still intended to force his way through the Union lines.

Initially, the Confederate cavalry had success, driving Union horsemen from their position atop a nearby ridge. However, Confederate General John B. Gordan saw thousands of Union soldiers approaching and sent word to Lee that his position was hopeless unless the infantry supported them.

Unfortunately for Gordan’s men, Lee’s infantry was already engaged with Grant’s Army of the James. Faced with no avenue of escape, it was then that Lee sent a message to Grant announcing his willingness to surrender.

The two Generals met to discuss terms at the home of Wilmer McLean, the owner of a nearby farmhouse. In Lee’s terms of surrender, Grant would not charge any member of the Army of Northern Virginia with treason but instead confiscate their weapons and place them on parole, among other things.

This is an undated photo of a sketch of Gen. Ulysses S. Grant.  Grant led the Union Army to...
This is an undated photo of a sketch of Gen. Ulysses S. Grant. Grant led the Union Army to victory during the American Civil War, and accepted the Confederate surrender at Appomattox Court House in 1865. He was made full general in 1866, and was elected U.S. President in 1868 and 1872. (AP Photo)(AP)

Terms of surrender letter

Headquarters Armies of the United States

Appomattox C H Va Apl 9th 1865.

Gen. R. E. Lee,

Comd’g C. S. A.


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 to be 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 to 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 officers appointed by me to receive them. This will not embrace the side-arms of the officers nor their private horses or baggage. This done, officers and men will be allowed to return to their homes, not to be disturbed by the United States authority as long as they observe their parole and the laws in force where they may reside.

Very respectfully

U. S. Grant

Lt. Gen

Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee poses in his uniform during the American Civil War, 1861-65. ...
Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee poses in his uniform during the American Civil War, 1861-65. (AP Photo)(ASSOCIATED PRESS)

General Robert E. Lee’s acceptance letter

Headquarters Army N. Va.

April 9th, 1865.

Lt. Gen. U. S. Grant

Com’dg Armies U. S.


I have received your letter of this date containing the terms of the surrender of the Army of Northern Va, 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.

Very Respectfully

Your obt. Servt

(Sgd) R. E. Lee


Although the official end of the Civil War was not until August 20, 1866, Lee’s surrender marked the end of the war in Virginia, and only smaller Confederate armies would continue to fight in the deep south and west of the Mississippi River.

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