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Civil War Trust

Grant & Lee:

The Surrender Correspondence at Appomattox

On April 9, 1865 Robert E. Lee, commander of the Army of Northern Virginia, surrendered his beleaguered Confederate forces to Ulysses S. Grant and the Union Army.  Lee's army, after the fall of Richmond and Petersburg, had been attempting to escape to the west so that he could link up with another Confederate army under Joseph E. Johnston.  Unfortunately for the Army of Northern Virginia, the fast moving Union Army of the Potomac positioned itself to cut off Lee's bedraggled army as it moved towards Lynchburg, Virginia. 

At the Battle of Sailor's Creek on April 6, 1865, it was becoming clear that the once vaunted Army of Northern Virginia was dissolving. Rather than pursue a path of more bloodshed, Grant reached out to Lee asking for his surrender on April 7, 1865.  Lee, still not ready to surrender, continued to hold a dialog with his nemesis Grant while holding out hope that he could escape the growing Union stranglehold.  Only after his defeats at Appomattox Station on April 8, 1865, where critical supplies were captured, and Appomattox Court House on April 9, 1865 did Lee finally accede to Grant's surrender terms.

The correspondence below follows the letters of Grant and Lee as they seek to find an honorable and acceptable end to this bloody war.
 

Ulysses S. Grant
Ulysses S. Grant, as photographed by Mathew B. Brady (National Archives)

APRIL 7, 1865

General R. E. LEE:

The result 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 C. S. Army known as the Army of Northern Virginia.

U.S. GRANT,
Lieutenant-General

_____

 
HEADQUARTERS ARMY OF NORTHERN VIRGINIA,
APRIL 7, 1865

Lieut. Gen. U.S. GRANT:

I have received your note of this date. Though not entertaining the opinion you express on 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.

________

APRIL 8, 1865

General R. E. LEE:

Your note of last evening, in reply to mine of same date, asking the condition 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 again 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 yell, for the purpose of arranging definitely the terms upon which the surrender of the Army of Northern Virginia will be received.

U.S. GRANT,
Lieutenant-General.

________
 
HEADQUARTERS ARMY OF NORTHERN VIRGINIA,
APRIL 8, 1865

Lieut. Gen. U.S. GRANT:

I received at a late hour your note of to-day. In mine of yesterday I did not intend to propose the surrender of the Army of Northern Virginia, but to ask the terms of your proposition. To be frank, I do not think the emergency has arisen to call for the surrender of this army, but as the restoration of peace should be the sole object of all, I desired to know whether your proposals would lead to that end. I cannot, therefore, meet you with a view to surrender the Army of Northern Virginia, but as far as your proposal may affect the C. S. forces under my command, and tend to the restoration of peace, I should be pleased to meet you at 10 a.m., to-morrow; on the old stage road to Richmond, between the picket-lines of the two armies.

R. E. LEE,
General.

________

APRIL 9, 1865

General R. E. LEE:

Your note of yesterday is received. I have no authority to treat on the subject of peace; the meeting proposed for 10 a.m. to-day could lead to no good. I will state, however, general, that I am equally anxious for peace with yourself, and the whole North entertains the same feeling. The terms upon which peace can be had are well understood. By the South laying down their arms they will hasten that most desirable event, save thousands of human lives, and hundreds of millions of property not yet destroyed. Seriously hoping that all our difficulties may be set-tied without the loss of another life, I subscribe myself, &c.,

U.S. GRANT,
Lieutenant-General.

__________

Robert E. Lee
Robert E. Lee (Library of Congress)

HEADQUARTERS ARMY OF NORTHERN VIRGINIA,
APRIL 9, 1865

Lieut. Gen. U.S. GRANT:

I received your note of this morning on the picket-line, whither I had come to meet you and ascertain definitely what terms were embraced in your proposal of yesterday with reference to the surrender of this army. I now ask an interview in accordance with the offer contained in your letter of yesterday for that purpose.

R. E. LEE,
General.

___________

APPOMATTOX COURT-HOUSE, VA.
April 9, 1865

General R. E. LEE:

In accordance with the substance of my letter to you of the 8th instant, I propose to receive the surrender of the Army of Northern Virginia 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 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, each officer and man will be allowed to return to his home, not to be disturbed by U. S. authority so long as they observe their paroles and the laws in force where they may reside.

U.S. GRANT,
Lieutenant-General.

__________

 
HEADQUARTERS ARMY OF NORTHERN VIRGINIA,
April 9, 1865

Lieut. Gen. U. S. GRANT:

I have received your letter of this date containing the terms of 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 instant, they are accepted. I will proceed to designate the proper officers to carry the stipulations into effect.

R. E. LEE,
General.

 

 

Note: Many point to Robert E. Lee's surrender on April 9, 1865 as the end of the American Civil War.  This claim ignores the fact that other Confederate armies were still in the field and fighting after Lee's surrender.  On April 26, 1865, Confederate General Joseph E. Johnston would surrender his forces to William T. Sherman in North Carolina.  General Richard Taylor's forces in Alabama surrendered on May 4th.  On June 2, 1865 General Edmund Kirby Smith surrendered the Confederate Department of the Trans-Mississippi.  And on June 23, 1865, General Stand Watie surrendered his Cherokee forces to the Union army in Oklahoma.

 

Source:  Official Records of the War of the Rebellion

 

 

 

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