Event: Lee’s Surrender

Lee’s Surrender

On Palm Sunday, April 9, 1865, Confederate Army general Robert E. Lee surrendered to Union commander Ulysses S. Grant at the the house of Wilmer McLean near the site of the Battle of Appomattox Court House. The surrender effectively ended the American Civil War.

Dressed in an immaculate uniform, Lee waited for Grant to arrive. Grant arrived at the courthouse in a mud-spattered uniform — a government-issue flannel shirt with trousers tucked into muddy boots, no sidearms, and with only his tarnished shoulder straps showing his rank. It was the first time the two men had seen each other face-to-face in almost two decades. Suddenly overcome with sadness, Grant found it hard to get to the point of the meeting and instead the two generals briefly discussed their only previous encounter, during the Mexican-American War.

Lee brought the attention back to the issue at hand, and Grant offered terms. The terms were as generous as Lee could hope for; his men would not be imprisoned or prosecuted for treason. Officers were allowed to keep their sidearms. In addition to his terms, Grant also allowed the defeated men to take home their horses and mules to carry out the spring planting and provided Lee with a supply of food rations for his starving army; Lee said it would have a very happy effect among the men and do much toward reconciling the country.

The terms of the surrender were recorded in a document hand written by Grant’s adjutant Ely S. Parker, a Native-American of the Seneca tribe, and completed around 4 p.m., April 9. Lee, upon discovering Parker to be a Seneca remarked, “It is good to have one real American here.” Parker replied, “Sir, we are all Americans.”

As Lee left the house and rode away, Grant’s men began cheering in celebration, but Grant ordered an immediate stop. “I at once sent word, however, to have it stopped,” he said. “The Confederates were now our countrymen, and we did not want to exult over their downfall.”