Meeting of Grant and Lee April 9, 1865 first step to war’s end

By Linda Emley

delayed the rest of my story about the Battle of Albany because I wanted to share some details about April 9, 1865. This is an important date in Civil War history because it was the beginning of the end of the war.

    In 1975, I moved to Norfolk, Va and learned the importance of this date. As we were driving across Virginia, we stopped at Appomattox to visit the “Surrender House.” We were lucky because it was the 9th Day of April and the house was full of re-enactors. That was the first time I felt the Civil War and knew it was real.

     The Story about Appomattox is interesting because there were so many stories behind the story we found in our history books. I wanted to know what the National Parks Department had to say and found the following, “On Palm Sunday April 9, 1865, Lee’s surrender at the Appomattox Court House signaled the end of the Southern States’ attempt to create a separate nation.”

    Lee and Grant sent letters to each other for several days before their meeting on April 9. When I read these letters, I saw two men that were tired of war.

    “General R.E. Lee, Commanding C.S.A.: 5 P.M., April 7th, 1865.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, Lieutenant-General.”

     This note was carried through the Confederate lines and Lee promptly responded: “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. – R.E. Lee, General.”

  After a few more letters, they agreed to meet on April 9, 1865, at the house of Wilmer McLean in the village of Appomattox Courthouse. Grant, who had been suffering from a severe headache that morning , later remembered that upon reading Lee’s letter the pain in his head had disappeared. He stopped to prepare his reply to Lee, writing that he would push to the front to meet him. Their meeting on this first day, lasted around two and one-half hours.

   Grant recalled some of his thoughts on this historic day. “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.

    “What General Lee’s feelings were I do not know.  As he was a man of much dignity, with an impassable 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 proposing negotiations, 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.

   “General Lee was dressed in a full uniform which was entirely new, and was wearing a sword of considerable value, very likely the sword which had been presented by the State of Virginia; at all events, it was an entirely different sword from the one that would ordinarily be worn in the field.  In my rough traveling suit, the uniform of a private with the straps of a lieutenant-general, I must have contrasted very strangely with a man so handsomely dressed, six feet high and of faultless form.  But this was not a matter that I thought of until afterwards.

   “We soon fell into a conversation about old army times.  He remarked that he remembered me very well in the old army; and I told him that as a matter of course I remembered him perfectly, but from the difference in our rank and years (there being about sixteen years’ difference in our ages), I had thought it very likely that I had not attracted his attention sufficiently to be remembered by him after such a long interval.  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 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.  I called to General Ely S. Parker, secretary on my staff, for writing materials, and commenced writing out the following terms.”

    Lee and Grant met again on April 10 and I’ve been told by several civil war historians, that this meeting was a lot more interesting than the previous day. The two old Mexican War soldiers were on the same page and wanted to take care of their men. General Lee requested that his men be given parole to protect them from arrest. 28,231 parole passes were issued to his men on April 10, 1865.

    The war may have been over in Virginia, but it would be a few more months before it was over in Missouri. Page 304 of our 1881 Ray County History Book tells it as follows. “The last engagement in Ray County, Missouri was about 6 miles northwest of Richmond, near Dr. Horace King’s farm, on the 23rd of May, 1865. The forces engaged were a portion of Capt. Clayton Tiffin’s command and a force of guerrillas under the command of Arch Clemens. In this engagement, Madison S. Walker was killed. He had been a private in Company D, 35th Missouri Mo. Volunteers and 5th regiment of veteran reserve corps. This engagement of Capt Tiffin’s company with Arch Clemens’ command on the 23rd day May, 1865, was emphatically the last of the war.”

   As always, there is more to tell about this Ray County Story.

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