8. Apr, 2018

BLOG 33-153 ANNIVERSARY OF THE ENDING OF THE CIVIL WAR

 

As today-April 9th, 2018 celebrates the 153rd year of General Lee’s Surrender to General Ulysses S. Grant at Appomattox Court House-it would be a fitting tribute to those men and women whom served and  gave their lives.

The Appomattox Campaign was a series of American Civil War battles fought March 29 – April 9, 1865 in Virginia that concluded with the surrender of Confederate General Robert E. Lee's Army of Northern Virginia to forces of the Union Army (Army of the Potomac, Army of the James and Army of the Shenandoah) under the overall command of Lieutenant General Ulysses S. Grant. In the following eleven weeks after Lee's surrender, the American Civil War ended as other Confederate armies surrendered and Confederate government leaders were captured or fled the country.

As the Richmond–Petersburg Campaign (also known as the Siege of Petersburg) ended, Lee's army was outnumbered and exhausted from a winter of trench warfare over an approximately 40 miles (64 kilometre) front, numerous battles, disease, hunger and desertion. Grant's well-equipped and well-fed army was growing in strength. On March 29, 1865, the Union Army began an offensive that stretched and broke the Confederate defenses southwest of Petersburg and cut their supply lines to Petersburg and the Confederate capital of Richmond, Virginia. Unionvictories at the Battle of Five Forks on April 1, 1865 and the Third Battle of Petersburg, often called the Breakthrough at Petersburg, on April 2, 1865, opened Petersburg and Richmond to imminent capture. Lee ordered the evacuation of Confederate forces from both Petersburg and Richmond on the night of April 2–3 before Grant's army could cut off any escape. Confederate government leaders also fled west from Richmond that night.The Confederates marched west, heading toward Danville, Virginia or Lynchburg, Virginia as an alternative. Lee planned to resupply his army at one of those cities and march southwest into North Carolina where he could unite his army with the Confederate army commanded by General Joseph E. Johnston. Grant's Union Army pursued Lee's fleeing Confederates relentlessly. During the next week, the Union troops fought a series of battles with Confederate units, cut off or destroyed Confederate supplies and blocked their paths to the south and ultimately to the west. On April 6, 1865, the Confederate Army suffered a significant defeat at the Battle of Sailor's Creek, Virginia, where they lost about 7,700 men killed and captured and an unknown number wounded. Nonetheless, Lee continued to move the remainder of his battered army to the west. Soon cornered, short of food and supplies and outnumbered, Lee surrendered the Army of Northern Virginia to Grant on April 9, 1865 at Appomattox Court House, Virginia.

Actually an interesting fact about Appomattox Court House-it was not a court house nor building, it was a small township.

Another interesting fact was that the house the surrender terms took place in belonged to Wilmer McLean. Wilmer McLean (May 3, 1814 – June 5, 1882) was an American wholesale grocer from Virginia. His house near Manassas, Virginia, was involved in the First Battle of Bull Run in 1861. After the battle he moved to Appomattox, Virginia, to escape the war thinking that it would be safe. Instead, in 1865, General Robert E. Lee surrendered to Ulysses S. Grant in McLean's house in Appomattox. His houses were, therefore, involved in one of the first and one of the last encounters of the American Civil War. He lived in his house with his wife, Virginia.

 The initial engagement on July 21, 1861 of what would become the First Battle of Bull Run (First Manassas) took place on McLean's farm, the Yorkshire Plantation, in Manassas, PrinceWilliam County, Virginia. Union Army artillery fired at McLean's house, which was being used as a headquarters for Confederate Brigadier General P. G. T. Beauregard, and a cannonball dropped through the kitchen fireplace. Beauregard wrote after the battle, "A comical effect of this artillery fight was the destruction of the dinner of myself and staff by a Federal shell that fell into the fire-place of my headquarters at the McLean House."

McLean was a retired major in the Virginia militia but, at age 47, he was too old to return to active duty at the outbreak of the Civil War. He made his living during the war as a sugar broker supplying the Confederate States Army. He decided to move because his commercial activities were centered mostly in southern Virginia and the Union army presence in his area of northern Virginiamade his work difficult. He undoubtedly was also motivated by a desire to protect his family from a repetition of their combat experience. In the spring of 1863, he and his family moved about 120 miles (190 kilometres) south to Appomattox County, Virginia, near a dusty, crossroads community called Appomattox Court House.

Appomattox Court House

On April 9, 1865, the war revisited McLean. Confederate General Robert E. Lee was about to surrender to Lieutenant General Ulysses S. Grant. He sent a messenger to Appomattox Court House to find a place to meet. On April 8, 1865, the messenger knocked on McLean's door and requested the use of his home, to which McLean reluctantly agreed. Lee surrendered to Grant in the parlor of McLean's house, effectively ending the Civil War. Later, McLean is supposed to have said "The war began in my front yard and ended in my front parlor."

Once the ceremony was over, members of the Army of the Potomac began taking the tables, chairs, and various other furnishings in the house—essentially, anything that was not tied down—as souvenirs. They simply handed money to the protesting McLean as they made off with his property. Major General Edward Ord paid $40 (equivalent to $639 in today's dollars) for the table Lee had used to sign the surrender document, while Major General Philip Sheridan got the table on which Grant had drafted the document for $20 (equivalent to $320 in today's dollars) in gold. Sheridan then asked George Armstrong Custer to carry it away on his horse. The table was presented to Custer's wife.

Military situation-April 9th, 1865

At dawn on April 9, 1865, the Confederate Second Corps under Major General John B. Gordon attacked units of Major General Philip Sheridan's cavalry. Ahead of Gordon's corps was Major General Fitzhugh Lee's cavalry, which quickly forced back the first line under Colonel (Brevet Brigadier General) Charles H. Smith. The next line, held by Major General George Crook's division of the Army of the Potomac and Brigadier General Ranald S. Mackenzie's smaller division from the Army of the James, slowed the Confederate advance. Gordon's troops charged through the Union lines and took the ridge, but as they reached the crest they saw the entire Union XXIV Corps in line of battle with the Union V Corps to their right. Lee's outnumbered army was now surrounded on three sides. Lee's cavalry saw these Union forces and immediately withdrew by the left flank to the Richmond-Lynchburg Stage Road and rode off unhindered towards Lynchburg.Ord's troops began advancing against Gordon's corps while the Union II Corps began moving against Lieutenant General James Longstreet's corps to the northeast. The 11th Maine Infantry Regiment was cut off from the rest of Brigadier General Robert S. Foster's division and suffered significant casualties in this final fight. Colonel Charles Venable of Lee's staff rode in at this time and asked Gordon for an assessment. Gordon gave him a reply he knew Lee did not want to hear: "Tell General Lee I have fought my corps to a frazzle, and I fear I can do nothing unless I am heavily supported by Longstreet's corps." Upon hearing it and considering the position of the armies, Lee finally stated the inevitable: "Then there is nothing left for me to do but to go and see General Grant and I would rather die a thousand deaths." Lee surrendered his army at 3 p.m., accepting the terms Grant had proposed by letter the previous day. He was accompanied to the McLean House where the surrender occurred only by his aide Colonel Charles Marshall and their orderly, Private Joshua O. Johns.

Grant offered the same terms he had offered the day before: 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. (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 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.

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.

Aftermath

The Appomattox Campaign was an example of masterful, relentless pursuit and maneuver by Grant and Sheridan, skills that had been in short supply by previous generals, such as Meade after Gettysburg and McClellan after Antietam. Lee did the best he could under the circumstances, but his supplies, soldiers, and luck finally ran out. The surrender of Lee represented the loss of only one of the Confederate field armies, but it was a psychological blow from which the South did not recover. With no chance remaining for eventual victory, all of the remaining armies capitulated by June 1865.