Now resigned to his fate and concerned for the condition of those men still under his command, General Robert E. Lee would lament,
"Then there is nothing left me but to go and see General Grant."
According to his son, an officer near him said in response, "Oh, General, what will history say of the surrender of the army in
the field?" The General replied, "Yes, I know they will say hard things of us; they will not understand how we were
overwhelmed by numbers; but that is not the question, Colonel. The question is, is it right to surrender this army? If it is right,
then I will take all the responsibility."
Having heard from General Lee of his desire to end hostilities,
General Grant moved to meet his former adversary. In his personal memoirs, written shortly before his death, General Grant would write,
"I was conducted at once to where Sheridan was located with his troops drawn up in line of battle facing the Confederate army near
by. They were very much excited, and expressed their view that this was all a ruse employed to enable the Confederates to get away. They
said they believed that Johnston was marching up from North Carolina now, and Lee was moving to join him; and they would whip the
rebels where they now were in five minutes if I would only let them go in. But I had no doubt about the good faith of Lee, and pretty
soon was conducted to where he was. I found him at the house of a Mr. McLean, at Appomattox Court House, with Colonel Marshall, one of
his staff officers, awaiting my arrival."
The future president would continue, "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 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.
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 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. I called to General Parker, secretary on my staff, for writing materials, and commenced writing out
the following terms:
APPOMATTOX C. H., VA.,
Ap 19th, 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.
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.
No conversation, not one word, passed between General Lee and myself,
either about private property, side arms, or kindred subjects. He appeared
to have no objections to the terms first proposed; or if he had a point to
make against them he wished to wait until they were in writing to make it.
When he read over that part of the terms about side arms, horses and
private property of the officers, he remarked, with some feeling, I
thought, that this would have a happy effect upon his army.
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:
HEADQUARTERS ARMY OF NORTHERN VIRGINIA, April 9, 1865.
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. LIEUT.-GENERAL U. S. GRANT.
While duplicates of the two letters were being made, the Union generals
present were severally presented to General Lee.
...General Lee, after all was completed and before taking his leave,
remarked that his army was in a very bad condition for want of food, and
that they were without forage; that his men had been living for some days
on parched corn exclusively, and that he would have to ask me for rations
and forage. I told him "certainly," and asked for how many men he wanted
rations. His answer was "about twenty-five thousand;" and I authorized him
to send his own commissary and quartermaster to Appomattox Station, two or
three miles away, where he could have, out of the trains we had stopped,
all the provisions wanted. As for forage, we had ourselves depended almost
entirely upon the country for that.
When news of the surrender first reached our lines our men commenced
firing a salute of a hundred guns in honor of the victory. I at once sent
word, however, to have it stopped. The Confederates were now our
prisoners, and we did not want to exult over their downfall."