"The Last Salute" by Don Troiani. Depicted are Maj. General John Gordon and Maj. General Joshua Chamberlain. (Library of Congress)
Beleaguered by Federal troops and cut off from desperately needed supplies, the worn-out and weary Army of Northern Virginia moved west after the fall of Petersburg and Richmond. Lt. Gen. Ulysses S. Grant gave chase, drawing an ever-tightening noose around Robert E. Lee's army. On the morning of April 9th, Gen. Lee attempted to break through toward Lynchburg, Va. near the town of Appomattox Courthouse, and initially was successful in attacks against Maj. Gen. Sheridan’s cavalry. However, the arrival of Union Maj. Gen. Griffin’s infantry quickly put a halt to the Rebel advance. With his army nearly surrounded, his men starving, and Grant closing in, Lee knew continued resistance was futile and ultimately self-destructive, and thus he agreed to meet Grant to discuss peace and surrender. Wearing an immaculate dress uniform adorned with a silken sash, a beautifully crafted sword, and attractive black leather boots with golden spurs, Lee met the mud splattered and plainly dressed Grant at the McLean House near Appomattox Courthouse on the afternoon of April 9. After a cordial exchange of pleasantries and reminisces of their service in Mexico, Lee officially surrendered his remaining troops to Grant on generous terms, and thus ended the war in Virginia.