Freedom and Liberty

Freedom and Liberty
I travel in Freedom but sleep in the security of Liberty (not only on the road, but in this amazing country of ours)

Saturday, May 10, 2014

Appomattox Court House (The Surrender)

It was early April of 1865; General U.S. Grant's army has successfully captured Petersburg, VA which is a town just south of the Confederate capitol of Richmond, VA. Petersburg was the key to taking Richmond because the
Road leading to Appomattox Court House
railroad junctions in the city carried supplies north to the capital and General Lee's army which has been protecting it for months. Around April 3rd, Lee gets word that Petersburg has fallen and he orders the retreat of the Army of Northern Virginia to the west. This retreat gives control of all portions
Courthouse building at end of road
of eastern Virginia to the Union. Lee's plan is to retreat west to a point where he can receive supplies coming north through the Lynchburg area. Once re-supplied, he planned to turn south and join forces with General Johnston who had been operating in North Carolina after losing to the Union at Vicksburg, Jackson and Chattanooga. Grant, sensing the end was near, pursued Lee. 

Lee reached the Appomattox area and was given the bad news that the supplies and supply line he had been hoping
McLean House
for had been captured by the Union General George Custer. Realizing his men would not be able to survive without supplies and being cut off from retreating south, Lee sent a message to Grant asking for terms of surrender. Grant sent a message back outlining the terms and asked Lee to find a
McLean House
suitable site for their meeting. On April 9th, some of Lee's officers entered Appomattox Court House to find a meeting place. Although many of us were taught the meeting was actually in the courthouse building, it was not. Appomattox Court House (two words) indicates the area around the courthouse (one word). This area included several houses and stores. Since it was Palm Sunday, the
Room where the signing took place
courthouse building was locked and very few people were around. The officers found one man named Wilmer McLean and asked him about using one of the buildings. McLean showed them one building but the officers rejected it because it did not have any furniture. McLean then offered his own house
Painting of the signing (sorry for the glare)
for their use. Upon seeing the house the officers immediately accepted and returned to Lee and informed him they had found a place. Word was sent to Grant about the location who was already heading in that direction. On April 10, 1865, General Lee, with one aide, arrived at McLeans house first. He waited in
the parlor for about 30 minutes before Grant, with several
What was actually signed
aides, arrived. Lee and Grant had met once before many years before, during the war with Mexico. The two talked about those times for about half an hour. It was Lee who brought up the subject about the surrender. Grant told him the terms essentially remained unchanged from the day before. Lee accepted
Tavern where Paroles were printed
those terms and asked for two things. One, that the proceedings be put in writing and two, that his men be given "written" paroles. The written paroles would be needed so the confederate soldiers wouldn't be confused as being active soldiers after the surrender. Grant agreed to both items and immediately wrote a short paragraph summarizing the proceedings. He gave it
Printing press with Paroles drying
to Lee who added a shorter paragraph and that ended the meeting. The local tavern, behind the courthouse, was turned into a printing house and two printing presses produced 28,231 written paroles as promised by Grant. Once the confederates received their paroles, stacked their rifles and turned over their flags they were free to return to their homes. Nearly 30,000 men
A copy of a Parole
simply walked away, heading home. It was still several months before word would spread of Lee's surrender which would prompt the surrender of the rest of the Armies of the Confederacy, but this was the end. 

Interesting information: Wilmer McLean owned the farm where part of the First Battle of Bull Run was fought. This battle was one of the first of the war. He was too old to enlist, and being tired of war, he took his family to western Virginia in hopes of avoiding the war. He settled in Appomattox. It is a strange coincidence that he owned the land at the first battle and the house at the end.

It was a good day visiting a place I had heard about all my life.

Ya'll take care of each other. Cya.

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