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View of field artillery


In the wake of Lee's retreat the ruins of railroad bridge at Petersburg April, 1865 The scene that met the eyes of the Union cavalry on April 3d. The ashes of a bridge, locomotive, train and all, as they had fallen the day before on the gravelly shore of the Appotomax. When the lines southeast and west of the city were captured on April 2d, Lee had seen that retreat was the only resource left. His haggard but undaunted veterans began this final movement at eight o'clock in the evening, passing to the north side of the Appomattox by the pontoon, Pocahontas and “railroad” bridges. These were given to the flames immediately after crossing, in order to hinder the pursuit. Though there were in the fields of Mississippi and Alabama supplies enough to feed Lee's army for a whole year, the means of transportation was so poor that all through the winter they had suffered from hunger. Now the only avenue of supply that had remained in their control was seized by the Union armies. The possibility of joining with Johnston's forces, or of making a last stand where the pursuer should put himself at a disadvantage, was the hope which sustained the famished heroes in gray as they left behind them the burning bridge.

[297] [298]

The capital of the Confederacy fallen: the desert and the waste places in Richmond, April, 1865. The ruins of the armory in the foreground, the pillars of the Petersburg and Richmond Railroad bridge across the James, a few houses in Manchester beyond the stream — this picture of desolation revives the scenes of wild commotion in Richmond on the 2d and 3d of April, 1865. On the 2d, a quiet Sunday, Jefferson Davis, at morning service in St. Paul's Church, received a despatch from General Lee, announcing the imminent fall of Petersburg and the necessity of retreating that night. Mr. Davis left his seat calmly; but by half-past 11 a strange agitation began to appear in the streets, and by noon the worst was known. A hubbub of excitement, the rumbling of trains and rattling of wagons filled the afternoon. By sunset bands of ruffians made their appearance on the principal streets. That night was full of the pandemonium of flight. Orders for the burning of the arsenals and all public buildings were issued before the officers of government left the city. To prevent drunkenness the alcoholic liquor was emptied into the gutters. The explosion of the magazines threw high into the air burning fragments which fell upon the adjacent buildings in Richmond and even across the river in Manchester. The hundreds of blazing piles lighted up the river with the brightness of day as it rushed sparkling beneath the high-arched bridges past the flaming cities. At early dawn, amid the roar of the explosions and of the falling buildings, the clatter of Union cavalry was heard in the streets. The capital of the Confederacy had fallen.

[299] [300]
I now come to what I have always regarded — shall ever regard — as the most creditable episode in all American history — an episode without a blemish, imposing, dignified, simple, heroic. I refer to Appomattox. Two men met that day, representative of American civilization, the whole world looking on. The two were Grant and Lee — types each. Both rose, and rose unconsciously, to the full height of the occasion — and than that occasion there has been none greater. About it, and them, there was no theatrical display, no self-consciousness, no effort at effect. A great crisis was to be met; and they met that crisis as great countrymen should. Consider the possibilities; think for a moment of what that day might have been; you will then see cause to thank God for much. General Charles Francis Adams, U. S. V., in Phi Beta Kappa Address delivered at the University of Chicago, June 17, 1902.

We are now to witness the closing scene of one of the greatest tragedies ever enacted on the world's stage. Many and varied had been the scenes during the war; the actors and their parts had been real. The wounds of the South were bleeding; the North was awaiting the decisive blow. Thousands of homes were ruined. Fortunes, great and small, had melted away by the hundreds of millions. In Richmond, the citadel of the waning Confederacy, the people were starving. The Southern army, half clad and without food, was but a shadow of its once proud self. Bravely and long the men in gray had followed their adored leader. Now the limit of endurance had been reached.

It was the second day of April, 1865. Lee realized that after Petersburg his beloved Richmond must fall. The order was given for the movement to begin at eight o'clock that night. The darkness of the early morning of the 3d was suddenly transformed into a lurid light overcasting the heavens [301]

Twelve hours after, at the Petersburg courthouse The night of April 2d was a tense one for the Federal troops in the trenches. The brigade of Colonel Ralph Ely was to charge at four o'clock in the morning, but at half-past 2 he learned that only the Confederate picket-lines remained. His command was formed for attack and advanced quickly across the opposing works. It then re-formed and pushed into the town, arriving at the courthouse shortly after four o'clock. At 4.28 A. M. the flag of the First Michigan Sharpshooters was floating from the staff. Major Lounsberry, in command of the detachment, was met in front of the courthouse by three citizens with a flag of truce, who surrendered the town in the name of the mayor and common council. The committee were assured of the safety of private property, and, according to the report of the mayor, so long as the brigade was in the city “the conduct of both officers and men was such as to reflect [honor] on our cause and cast a luster of glory over the profession of arms.” This is one of the series of photographs taken April 3d by the enterprising artist with the Federal army; and the clock-face in the courthouse tower shows that the picture was made at ten minutes of four that afternoon.

[302] for miles around the famous city whose name had become a household word over the civilized world. Richmond was in flames! The capital of the Confederacy, the pride of the South, toward which the Army of the Potomac had fought its way, leaving a trail of blood for four weary years, had at last succumbed to the overwhelming power of Grant's indomitable armies.

President Davis had received a despatch while attending services at St. Paul's church, Sunday morning, the 2d, advising him that the city must be evacuated that night, and, leaving the church at once, he hastened the preparations for flight with his personal papers and the archives of the Confederate Government. During that Sabbath day and night Richmond was in a state of riot. There had been an unwarranted feeling of security in the city, and the unwelcome news, spreading like an electric flash, was paralyzing and disastrous in its effect. Prisoners were released from their toils, a lawless mob overran the thoroughfares, and civic government was nullified. One explosion after another, on the morning of the 3d, rent the air with deafening roar, as the magazines took fire. The scene was one of terror and grandeur.

The flames spread to the city from the ships, bridges, and arsenal, which had been set on fire, and hundreds of buildings, including the best residential section of the capital of the Confederacy, were destroyed.

When the Union army entered the city in the morning, thousands of the inhabitants, men, women, and children, were gathered at street corners and in the parks, in wildest confusion. The commissary depot had been broken open by the starving mob, and rifled of its contents, until the place was reached by the spreading flames. The Federal soldiers stacked arms, and heroically battled with the fire, drafting into the work all able-bodied men found in the city. The invaders extinguished the flames, and soon restored the city to a state of order and safety. The invalid wife of General Lee, who was [303]

In Petersburg — after nine months of battering This fine mansion on Bolingbroke Street, the residential section of Petersburg, has now, on the 3d of April, fallen into the hands of straggling Union soldiers. Its windows have long since been shattered by shells from distant Federal mortars; one has even burst through the wall. But it was not till the night of April 2d, when the retreat of the Confederate forces started, that the citizens began to leave their homes. At 9 o'clock in the morning General Grant, surrounded by his staff, rode quietly into the city. The streets were deserted. At length they arrived at a comfortable home standing back in a yard. There he dismounted and sat for a while on the piazza. Soon a group of curious citizens gathered on the sidewalk to gaze at the commander of the Yankee armies. But the Union troops did not remain long in the deserted homes. Sheridan was already in pursuit south of the Appomattox, and Grant, after a short conference with Lincoln, rode to the west in the rear of the hastily marching troops. Bolingbroke Street and Petersburg soon returned to the ordinary occupations of peace in an effort to repair the ravages of the historic nine months siege.

[304] exposed to danger, was furnished with an ambulance and corporal's guard until the danger was past.

President Lincoln, who had visited Grant at Petersburg, entered Richmond on the 4th of April. He visited President Davis' house, and Libby Prison, then deserted, and held a conference with prominent citizens and army officers of the Confederacy. The President seemed deeply concerned and weighted down with the realization of the great responsibilities that would fall upon him after the war. Only ten days later the nation was shaken from ocean to ocean by the tragic news of his assassination.

General Lee had started on his last march by eight o'clock on the night of the 2d. By midnight the evacuation of both Petersburg and Richmond was completed. For nine months the invincible forces of Lee had kept a foe of more than twice their numerical strength from invading their stronghold, and only after a long and harassing siege were they forced to retreat. They saw the burning city as their line of march was illuminated by the conflagration, and emotions too deep for words overcame them. The woods and fields, in their fresh, bright colors of spring, were in sharp contrast to the travelworn, weather-beaten, ragged veterans passing over the verdant plain. Lee hastened the march of his troops to Amelia Court House, where he had ordered supplies, but by mistake the train of supplies had been sent on to Richmond. This was a crushing blow to the hungry men, who had been stimulated on their tiresome march by the anticipation of much-needed food. The fatality of war was now hovering over them like a huge black specter.

General Grant did not proceed to Richmond, but leaving General Weitzel to invest the city, he hastened in pursuit of Lee to intercept the retreating army. This pursuit was started early on the 3d. On the evening of that date there was some firing between the pursuing army and Lee's rear guard. It was Lee's design to concentrate his force at Amelia Court [305]

Siege of Petersburg.

A Federal wagon-train moves out of Petersburg to feed the troops pursuing Lee, in those early April days of 1865. The Army of Northern Virginia has taken no supply trains on its hurried departure from Petersburg and Richmond. It depends on forage. Within the next week Grant's troops are to be brought almost to a like pass. If the surrender had not come when it did, the pursuit would have been brought to a stop for the time being by lack of subsistence. The South Side Railroad, which crossed Indian Town Creek on the trestle shown in the smaller picture, was the only railroad line in the possession of the Confederates at the end of the siege of Petersburg. It was their only avenue of supplies, but Sheridan's victory at Five Forks made it possible to cut the line. Lee was thus compelled to evacuate both Richmond and Petersburg. The bridge is to the west of Petersburg on the main line of the railroad.

Supporting the pursuit of Lee's army

The last railroad into Petersburg


House, but this was not to be accomplished by the night of the 4th. Not until the 5th was the whole army up, and then it was discovered that no adequate supplies were within less than fifty miles. Subsistence could be obtained only by foraging parties. No word of complaint from the suffering men reached their commander, and on the evening of that disappointing day they patiently and silently began the sad march anew. Their course was through unfavorable territory and necessarily slow. The Federals were gaining upon their retreating columns. Sheridan's cavalry had reached their flank, and on the 6th there was heavy skirmishing. In the afternoon the Federals had arrived in force sufficient to bring on an engagement with Ewell's corps in the rear, at Sailor's Creek, a tributary of the Appomattox River. Ewell was surrounded by the Federals and the entire corps captured. General Anderson, commanding the divisions of Pickett and Johnson, was attacked and fought bravely, losing many men. In all about six thousand Confederate soldiers were left in the hands of the pursuing army.

On the night of the 6th, the remainder of the Confederate army continued the retreat and arrived at Farmville, where the men received two days rations, the first food except raw or parched corn that had been given them for two days. Again the tedious journey was resumed, in the hope of breaking through the rapidly-enmeshing net and forming a junction with Johnston at Danville, or of gaining the protected region of the mountains near Lynchburg. But the progress of the weak and weary marchers was slow and the Federal cavalry had swept around to Lee's front, and a halt was necessary to check the pursuing Federals. On the evening of the 8th, Lee reached Appomattox Court House. Here ended the last march of the Army of Northern Virginia.

General Lee and his officers held a council of war on the night of the 8th and it was decided to make an effort to cut their way through the Union lines on the morning of the next day. On the 7th while at Farmville, on the south side of the [307]

Pursuing Lee to Appomatox.

This is a scene near the railroad station on April 3, 1865. Muskets of the Federal troops are stacked in the foreground. Evidences of the long bombardment appear in the picture. The foot-bridge shown in the smaller picture is at the point where the old river road crossed the run west of Old Town Creek. In the distance can be seen the trestle of the South Side Railroad. This bridge shook under the hurrying feet of Meade's heavy advancing column, as the pursuit of Lee was pressed.

Waiting to press the advantage

On the line of pursuit


Appomattox River, Grant sent to Lee a courteous request for the surrender of the Army of Northern Virginia, based on the hopelessness of further resistance on the part of that army. In reply, Lee expressed sympathy with Grant's desire to avoid useless effusion of blood and asked the terms of surrender.

The next morning General Grant replied to Lee, urging that a meeting be designated by Lee, and specifying the terms of surrender, to which Lee replied promptly, rejecting those terms, which were, that the Confederates lay down their arms, and the men and officers be disqualified for taking up arms against the Government of the United States until properly exchanged. When Grant read Lee's letter he shook his head in disappointment and said, “It looks as if Lee still means to fight; I will reply in the morning.”

On the 9th Grant addressed another communication to Lee, repeating the terms of surrender, and closed by saying, “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. Sincerely hoping that all our difficulties may be settled without the loss of another life, I subscribe myself, etc.”

There remained for Lee the bare possibility, by desperate fighting, of breaking through the Federal lines in his rear. To Gordon's corps was assigned the task of advancing on Sheridan's strongly supported front. Since Pickett's charge at Gettysburg there had been no more hopeless movement in the annals of the war. It was not merely that Gordon was overwhelmingly outnumbered by the opposing forces, but his hunger-enfeebled soldiers, even if successful in the first onslaught, could count on no effective support, for Longstreet's corps was in even worse condition than his own. Nevertheless, on the morning of Sunday, the 9th, the attempt was made. Gordon was fighting his corps, as he said, “to a frazzle,” when Lee came at last to a realizing sense of the futility of it all and [309]

Pursuit of Lee to Appomattox.

The roads leading west from Petersburg crossed and recrossed the Appomattox and its tributaries. The spring floods impeded, though they did not actually check, Grant's impetuous pursuit of Lee. By the time Lee had reached Amelia Court House (April 5th), Grant's van was at Jetersville. Lee halted to bring up provisions; as he said in his official report, the ensuing delay proved fatal to his plans. The provisions that he expected to find at Amelia Court House were captured by the Federals.

The freshet that delayed Grant's pursuit

The flooded Appomattox

[310] ordered a truce. A meeting with Grant was soon arranged on the basis of the letters already exchanged. The conference of the two world-famous commanders took place at Appomattox, a small settlement with only one street, but to be made historic by this meeting. Lee was awaiting Grant's arrival at the house of Wilmer McLean. It was here, surrounded by staff-officers, that the terms were written by Grant for the final surrender of the Army of Northern Virginia. The terms, and their acceptance, were embodied in the following letters, written and signed in the famous “brick house” on that memorable Sunday:

Appomattox Court House, Virginia, April 9, 1865.
General: 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 to 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 the United States authority so long as they observe their paroles and the laws in force where they may reside.

U. S. Grant, Lieutenant-General. General R. E. Lee.

Headquarters Army of Northern Virginia, April 9, 1865.
General: I have received your letter of this date containing the terms of the surrender of the Army of Northern Virginia as proposed by you. As they are substantially the same as those expressed in your [311]

Appomattox: the landmark of the Confederates' last stand

The Union army, after the fall of Petersburg, followed the streaming Confederates, retreating westward, and came upon a part of Gordon's troops near High Bridge over the Appomattox, where the South Side Railroad crosses the river on piers 60 feet high. Hancock's (Second) Corps arrived on the south bank just after the Confederates had blown up the redoubt that formed the bridge head, and set fire to the bridge itself. The bridge was saved with the loss of four spans at the north end, by Colonel Livermore, whose party put out the fire while Confederate skirmishers were fighting under their feet. A wagon bridge beside it was saved by the men of Barlow's division. Mahone's division of the Confederate army was drawn up on a hill, north of the river behind redoubts, but when Union troops appeared in force the Confederates again retreated westward along the river.

High bridge over the Appomattox

High bridge over the Appomattox

[312] letter of the 8th instant, they are accepted. I will proceed to designate the proper officers to carry the stipulation into effect.

When Federal officers were seen galloping toward the Union lines from Appomattox Court House it was quickly surmised that Lee had surrendered. Cheer after cheer was sent up by the long lines throughout their entire length; caps and tattered colors were waved in the air. Officers and men alike joined in the enthusiastic outburst. It was glad tidings, indeed, to these men, who had fought and hoped and suffered through the long bloody years.

When Grant returned to his headquarters and heard salutes being fired he ordered it stopped at once, saying, “The war is over; the rebels are our countrymen again; and the best sign of rejoicing after the victory will be to abstain from all demonstration in the field.”

Details of the surrender were arranged on the next day by staff-officers of the respective armies. The parole officers were instructed by General Grant to permit the Confederate soldiers to retain their own horses — a concession that was most welcome to many of the men, who had with them animals brought from the home farm early in the war.

There were only twenty-eight thousand men to be paroled, and of these fewer than one-third were actually bearing arms on the day of the surrender. The Confederate losses of the last ten days of fighting probably exceeded ten thousand.

The Confederate supplies had been captured by Sheridan, and Lee's army was almost at the point of starvation. An order from Grant caused the rations of the Federal soldiers to be shared with the “Johnnies,” and the victorious “Yanks” were only too glad to tender such hospitality as was within their power. These acts of kindness were slight in themselves, but they helped immeasurably to restore good feeling and to [313]


At this railroad point, three miles from the Court House, a Confederate provision train arrived on the morning of April 8th. The supplies were being loaded into wagons and ambulances by a detail of about four thousand men, many of them unarmed, when suddenly a body of Federal cavalry charged upon them, having reached the spot by a byroad leading from the Red House. After a few shots the Confederates fled in confusion. The cavalry drove them on in the direction of Appomattox Court House, capturing many prisoners, twenty-five pieces of artillery, a hospital train, and a large park of wagons. This was Lee's last effort to obtain food for his army.

Appomattox station — Lee's last attempt to provision his retreating army

Federal soldiers who performed one of the last duties at Appomattox: a detail of the Twenty-sixth Michigan handed out paroles to the surrendered Confederates.


McLean's residence at the beginning of the war — Beauregard's headquarters at Bull Run


The homes of Wilmer McLean: where the battles began and ended By an extraordinary coincidence the two historic houses on this and the facing page belonged to the same man. In 1861, Wilmer McLean lived near Manassas Station, and his house was chosen by General Beauregard as headquarters. In the engagement of July 18th, preceding the great battle, a Federal cannonball landed in the fireplace and spoiled the general's dinner. During the famous battle of the following Sunday the household was subject to the constant alarms of a long-fought field. To avoid the scene of active military operations McLean removed to the village of Appomattox and spent nearly four years tranquilly enough. But he found himself once more the center of warlike activity. Only half a mile west of the town Grant's messenger had found Lee resting under an apple-tree. After reading Grant's letter, he started with his military secretary for Appomattox Court House. In the village they met Wilmer McLean, who, after stopping for a moment at the first house they came to, conducted the party to his own home. It was Sunday, three years and nine months since that Sunday of Bull Run. At half-past 1, April 9th, the negotiations took place to the left of the central doorway; during them General Lee sat by a small oval table near the window, half hidden by the pillar at the top of the step. For the table General Sheridan paid Mr. McLean twenty dollars in gold. The rest of the furniture used on that historic occasion was largely seized by others of those present. The house itself remained no longer in obscurity, but became one of the most famous landmarks in American history.

[316] associate for all time with Appomattox the memory of reunion rather than of strife. The things that were done there can never be the cause of shame to any American. The noble and dignified bearing of the commanders was an example to their armies and to the world that quickly had its effect in the genuine reconciliation that followed.

The scene between Lee and his devoted army was profoundly touching. General Long in his “Memoirs of Lee” says: “It is impossible to describe the anguish of the troops when it was known that the surrender of the army was inevitable. Of all their trials, this was the greatest and hardest to endure.” As Lee rode along the lines of the tried and faithful men who had been with him at the Wilderness, at Spotsylvania, and at Cold Harbor, it was not strange that those ragged, weather-beaten heroes were moved by deep emotion and that tears streamed down their bronzed and scarred faces. Their general in broken accents admonished them to go to their homes and be as brave citizens as they had been soldiers.

Thus ended the greatest Civil War in history, for soon after the fall of the Confederate capital and the surrender of Lee's army, there followed in quick succession the surrender of all the remaining Southern forces.

While these stirring events were taking place in Virginia, Sherman, who had swept up through the Carolinas with the same dramatic brilliancy that marked his march to the sea, accomplishing most effective work against Johnston, was at Goldsboro. When Johnston learned of the fall of Richmond and Lee's surrender he knew the end had come and he soon arranged for the surrender of his army on the terms agreed upon at Appomattox. In the first week of May General “DickTaylor surrendered his command near Mobile, and on the 10th of the same month, President Jefferson Davis, who had been for nearly six weeks a fugitive, was overtaken and made a prisoner near Irwinsville, Georgia. The Southern Confederacy was a thing of the past.

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