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The surrender at Appomattox Courthouse. [from the Enquirer-sun, Columbus, Georgia, October 4, 1891.]

A graphic narrative by a participant, now a merchant of Columbus, Georgia.

Nashville, Tenn., September 30, 1891.
In passing through Virginia en route to New York recently, I met a gentleman, now a minister of the Episcopal church, who during the late war was a captain of artillery in the Confederate army. As we were in a Pullman palace car, dashing along at the rate of thirty miles an hour, the contrast between such a mode of travel and surroundings, with the former weary and hungry marches through many of the same places which we observed during the journey, was very impressive. Talk, talk, talk was freely interchanged, and many, many a battle scene recalled, with fresh memories of the elation inspired by the victories won upon the one hand and the sadness [269] often felt at the loss of some noble comrade whose life blood had gone forth for the cause we were defending upon the other. Leaving Lynchburg for Charlottesville and standing on the platform of the car and looking toward the hills of Appomattox, the scenes of the ‘surrender of Lee to Grant’ April 9, 1865, came vividly to mind. For a long time forgotten as a dream, they reappeared with lifelike freshness.

That was a panorama to stir the soul to its deepest depths. Lee, with his grand army of Northern Virginia reduced to about 8,000 infantry and 2,000 cavalry and artillery, hungry almost to famishing, having been for days without rations, ill clad but resolute to the last, on that Sunday morning that will be immortal in history, found the army of General Grant (numbering about 100,000) investing every road near us, leaving only surrender or inevitable destruction. The smoke of battle drifted away, the booming guns were hushed. White flags of truce appeared.

Along the road which our line of battle crossed, while our men were resting on the ground, General Lee rode forth with some members of his staff, passing our command—the Second Georgia battalion—and it was whispered along the line, ‘our grand old hero has gone to the front to make terms for our surrender.’ Doubt, sadness, gloom, settled upon our hearts.

Two hours, perhaps, or more and our General came riding slowly back. Soon as he reached our line, many of the soldiers gathered about him, and eager inquiries from numbers of them came, ‘General, are we surrendered?’

The answer seemed to give him pain. ‘Yes, my men, you are surrendered. The odds against us was too great. I would not lead you into fruitless slaughter. Private property will be respected; officers will retain their side arms and horses. All will be paroled and transported to your homes, and may you find your families and loved ones well. Good-bye, my men, good-bye.’ With tears flowing down his face, and dropping his bridle reins on his horse's neck, shaking hands right and left, he rode out from our midst, and the face of one of the grandest heroes of all time we never saw again. Old soldiers, battle-scarred by many fields of blood and carnage, dropped on the ground and wept.

May the patriotism, self-sacrifice, toil and blood, so nobly lavished by both sides in that fearful war, become the common heritage of a united, just, generous, and noble people. [270]

And now I hope I may be pardoned in placing upon record a few items in the history of that time. Friday, April 7, (preceding the surrender on Sunday, April 9,) Sorrel's brigade, Georgia Troops, (formerly Wright's,) under command at the time of Colonel G. E. Tayloe, formed a part of the rear guard of Lee's army. Before noon near Farmville, Va., the enemy pressed us closely, deployed into line of battle for attack, and our brigade was quickly deployed to resist it. From noon till night we maintained our line, driving back two heavy assaults, inflicting much loss upon the enemy and ourselves sustaining great damage. About dusk, in front of the Second Geogia battalion (which comprised four companies, the Macon Volunteers and Floyd Rifles of Macon, the Spaulding Grays of Griffin, and the City Light Guards of Columbus,) a flag of truce was observed by G. J. Peacock, lieutenant commanding City Light Guards, and its approach reported to Major C. J. Moffett, commanding Second Georgia battalion, and he advanced to the front probably thirty paces and called out the inquiry, ‘What is wanted?’ The answer was given, ‘Important dispatches from General Grant to General Lee.’ Major Moffett replied: ‘Stand where you are till I communicate.’

A messenger was sent quickly to Colonel Tayloe, commanding brigade, and A. H. Perry, A. A. General of the brigade, came soon to our line, and with Major Moffett, went out to the flag of truce, and received the dispatch which was hurried to brigade headquarters and thence to General Lee. This dispatch, it was afterward developed, was the demand from General Grant to General Lee, for the surrender of the Army of Northern Virginia.

About midnight our brigade, according to orders, silently left our line of battle and marched in column toward Appomattox Courthouse, and on Sunday morning, April 9, 1865, while deployed to the left of the road, the right of our battalion (Second Georgia) resting on the road, General Lee passed to our front to meet General Grant and negotiate the terms of surrender. Thus the fact appears that through the lines of the Second Georgia battalion passed the demand for the surrender of Lee's army, Friday, April 7 (about night), and Sunday, April 9 (about noon), General Lee passed to the front by the same command for negotiating terms of surrender.

Many particulars of this eventful day can be found in ‘Southern Historical Papers,’ Volume XV, obtainable of the publishers, Richmond, Va.

Yours truly,

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Robert E. Lee (10)
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