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Appomattox Courthouse.

Incidents of the surrender of General Lee, as given by Colonel Charles Marshall,

In his address on the observance of the anniversary of the Birthday of General R. E. Lee, at Baltimore, Md., January 19, 1894.

After describing in his address correspondence which passed between Generals Lee and Grant before the surrender, Colonel Marshall said that General Grant in this correspondence ‘manifested that delicate consideration for his great adversary which marked all his subsequent conduct towards him.’

General Grant offered,’ continued Colonel Marshall,

to have the terms of the capitulation arranged by officers to be appointed for the purpose by himself and General Lee, thus sparing the latter the pain and mortification of conducting personally the arrangements for the surrender of his army. I have no doubt that this proposition proceeded from the sincere desire of General Grant to do all in his power to spare the feelings of General Lee, but it is not unworthy to remark that when Lord Cornwallis opened his correspondence with General Washington, which ended in the surrender at Yorktown, his lordship proposed in his letter of October 17, 1771, “a cessation of hostilities for twenty-four hours, and that two officers may be appointed by each side to meet at Mr. Moore's house to settle terms for the surrender of the posts of York and Gloucester.”

In view of this letter and of the fact that Cornwallis declined to attend the ceremony of the surrender of his army, deputing General O'Hara to represent him on that occasion, it is very plain that his lordship shrunk from sharing with his army the humiliation of surrender. General Grant's letter offered General Lee an opportunity to avoid the trial to which the British commander felt himself unequal. But General Lee was made of different stuff.

Trying to reach Johnston.

In giving a detailed story of the surrender of Lee and of preceding events, Colonel Marshall said: [354]

The Confederate march was continued during the 8th of April, 1865, with little interruption from the enemy, and in the evening we halted near Appomattox Courthouse, General Lee intending to march by way of Campbell Courthouse, through Pittsylvania county, toward Danville, with a view of opening communication with the army of General Joseph E. Johnston, then retreating before General Sherman through North Carolina. General Lee's purpose was to unite with General Johnston to attack Sherman, or call Johnston to his aid in resisting Grant, whichever might be found best. The exhausted troops were halted for rest on the evening of the 8th of April, near Appomattox Courthouse, and the march was ordered to be resumed at one o'clock A. M. I can convey a good idea of the condition of affairs by telling my own experience.

Sleeping on the ground.

When the army halted on the night of the 8th, General Lee and his staff turned out of the road into a dense woods to seek some rest. The General had a conference with some of the principal officers, at which it was determined to try to force our way the next morning with the troops of Gordon, supported by the cavalry under General Fitz Lee, the command of Longstreet bringing up the rear. With my comrades of the staff and staff officers of General Longstreet and General Gordon, I sought a little much needed repose. We lay upon the ground, near the road, with our saddles for pillows, our horses picketed near by, and eating the bark from the trees for want of better provender, and with our faces covered with the capes of our overcoats to keep out the night air.

Early morning March.

Soon after one o'clock I was aroused by the sound of a column of infantry marching along the road. We were so completely surrounded by the swarming forces of General Grant that at first, when I awoke, I thought the passing column might be Federal soldiers. I raised my head and listened intently. My doubts were quickly dispelled. I recalled the order to resume the march at that early hour, and knew that the troops I heard were moving forward to endeavor to force our way through the lines of the enemy at Appomattox Courthouse. I soon knew that the command that was passing consisted, [355] in part, at least, of Hood's old Texas brigade. It was called the Texas brigade, although it was at times composed in part of regiments from other States. Sometimes there was a Mississippi regiment, sometimes an Arkansas regiment and sometimes a Georgia regiment mingled with the Texans, but all the strangers called themselves Texans, and all fought like Texans.

A Texas war Rhyme.

On this occasion I recognized these troops as they passed along the road in the dead of night by hearing one of them repeat the Texan version of a passage of Scripture with which I was familiar— I mean with the Texan version. You will readily recall the original text when I repeat the Texan rendition of it that fell upon my ear as I lay in the woods by the roadside that dark night. That version was as follows:
The race is not to them that's got
     The longest legs to run,
Nor the battle to that people
     That shoots the biggest gun.

Usefulness of a tin can.

Soon after the Texans passed we were all astir and our bivouac was at an end. We made our simple toilets, consisting mainly of putting on our hats and saddling our horses. We then proceeded to look for something to satisfy our now ravenous appetites.

Somebody had a little corn meal, and somebody else had a tin can, such as is used to hold hot water for shaving. A fire was kindled, and each man in his turn, according to rank and seniority, made a can of corn-meal gruel, and was allowed to keep the can until the gruel became cool enough to drink. General Lee, who reposed as we had done, not far from us, did not, as I remember, have even such a refreshment as I have described.

This was our last meal in the Confederacy. Our next was taken in the United States, and consisted mainly of a generous portion of that noble American animal whose strained relations with the great chancellor of the German empire made it necessary at last for the President of the United States to send an Ohio man to the court of Berlin.


Fighting and Negotiating.

‘As soon as we had all had our turn at the shaving can we rode towards Appomattox Courthouse, when the sound of guns announced that Gordon had already begun the attempt to open the way. He forced his way through the cavalry of the enemy, only to encounter a force of infantry far superior to his own weary and starving command. He informed General Lee that it was impossible to advance further, and it became evident that the end was at hand.’

Colonel Marshall then gave the text of General Lee's letter in reply to a letter from General Grant, in which the Confederate leader said:

‘I cannot meet you with a view to surrender the Army of Northern Virginia, but as far as your proposal may affect the Confederate States forces under my command and tend to the restoration of peace, I should be pleased to meet you at 10 A. M. to-morrow, on the old stage road to Richmond, between the picket lines of the two armies.’

This letter of General Lee was dated April 8th. Colonel Marshall continued:

No reply to this letter had been received when, early on the morning of April 9th, General Lee arrived near Appomattox Courthouse, which was occupied by the enemy.

Going to meet Grant.

According to the proposal contained in his letter to General Grant of the 8th of April, General Lee, attended by myself and with one orderly, proceeded down the old stage road to Richmond, to meet General Grant. While riding to the rear for this purpose he received the message of General Gordon that his advance was impossible without reinforcements. We rode through the rear guard of the army, composed of the remnant of Longstreet's corps. They had thrown up substantial breastworks of logs across the roads leading to the rear, and cheered General Lee as he passed in the way they had cheered many a time before. Their confidence and enthusiasm were not one whit abated by defeat, hunger, and danger.

It was lucky for the Secretary of the Treasury that this rear guard was not permitted to try its hand at increasing the pension roll with which he is now struggling. Those men made no fraudulent pensioners. When they were done with a man he or his representatives [357] had an indisputable claim to a pension under any kind of a pension law.

As soon as General Lee received the report of General Gordon as to the state of affairs in front, he directed that officer to ask for a suspension of hostilities, and proceeded at once to meet General Grant.

A flag of truce.

General Lee, with an orderly in front bearing a flag of truce, had proceeded but a short distance after passing through our rear guard, when he came upon the skirmish line of the enemy advancing to the attack.

I went forward to meet a Federal officer, who soon afterward made his appearance coming toward our party. This officer proved to be Lieutenant-Colonel Whittier, of the staff of the late General Humphreys, whose division was immediately in our rear. Colonel Whittier delivered to me General Grant's reply to the letter of General Lee of April 8th, declining to meet General Lee to discuss the terms of a general pacification on the ground that General Lee possessed no authority to deal with the subject.

Further correspondence between the Federal and Confederate leaders was then given by Colonel Marshall, who also told of the temporary cessation of hostilities which was ordered, and of the subsequent arrangement of a meeting between Lee and Grant at McLean's house. He said:

The McLean House.

General Lee directed me to find a suitable place for the meeting. I rode forward and asked the first citizen I met to direct me to a house suitable for the purpose. I learned afterward that the citizen was Mr. McLean, who had lived on the battle-field of Bull Run, but had removed to Appomattox Courthouse to get out of the way of the war. Mr. McLean conducted me to an unoccupied and unfurnished house, in a very bad state of repair. I told him that it was not suitable, and he then offered his own house, to which he conducted me.

I found a room suitable for the purpose in view, and sent back the orderly who had accompanied me to direct General Lee and Colonel Babcock, of General Grant's staff, to the house. They came [358] in presently, and Colonel Babcock said that as General Grant was approaching on the road, in front of the house, it would only be necessary for him to leave an orderly to direct him to the place of meeting.

Leaders face to face.

General Lee, Colonel Babcock, and myself sat in the parlor for about half an hour, when a large party of mounted men arrived, and in a few minutes General Grant came into the room, accompanied by his staff and a number of Federal officers of rank, among whom were General Ord and General Sheridan.

General Grant greeted General Lee very civilly, and they engaged for a short time in conversation about their former acquaintance during the Mexican war. Some other Federal officers took part in the conversation, which was terminated by General Lee saying to General Grant that he had come to discuss the terms of the surrender of his army, as indicated in his note of that morning, and he suggested to General Grant to reduce his proposition to writing.

Terms of the surrender.

General Grant assented, and Colonel Parker, of his staff, moved a small table from the opposite side of the room and placed it by General Grant, who sat facing General Lee.

When General Grant had written his letter in pencil he took it to General Lee, who remained seated. General Lee read the letter, and called General Grant's attention to the fact that he required the surrender of the horses of the cavalry as if they were public horses. He told General Grant that Confederate cavalrymen owned their horses, and that they would need them for planting a spring crop. General Grant at once accepted the suggestion, and interlined the provision allowing the retention by the men of the horses that belonged to them.

The terms of the letter having been agreed to, General Grant directed Colonel Parker to make a copy of it in ink, and General Lee directed me to write his acceptance. Colonel Parker took the light table upon which General Grant had been writing to the opposite corner of the room, and I accompanied him. There was an inkstand in the room, but the ink was so thick that it was of no use. I had a small boxwood inkstand, which I always carried, and gave it, [359] with my pen, to Colonel Parker, who proceeded to copy General Grant's letter.

Food for starving troops.

While Colonel Parker was so engaged, I sat near the end of the sofa on which General Sheridan was sitting, and we entered into conversation. In the midst of it, General Grant, who sat nearly diagonally across the room and was talking with General Lee, turned to General Sheridan and said:

General Sheridan, General Lee tells me that he has some 1,200 of our people prisoners, who are sharing with his men, and that none of them have anything to eat. How many rations can you spare?”

General Sheridan replied: “About 25,000.”

General Grant turned to General Lee and said: “General, will that be enough?”

General Lee replied: “More than enough.”

Thereupon General Grant said to General Sheridan, “Direct your commissary to send 25,000 rations to General Lee's commissary.”

General Sheridan at once sent an officer to give the necessary orders.

Exchanging official letters.

When Colonel Parker had completed the copying of General Grant's letter, I sat down at the same little table and wrote General Lee's answer. I have yet in my possession the original draft of that answer. It began: “I have the honor to acknowledge.” General Lee struck out those words, and made the answer read as it now appears. His reason was that the correspondence ought not to appear as if he and General Grant were not in immediate communication. When General Grant had signed the copy of his letter made by Colonel Parker, and General Lee had signed the answer, Colonel Parker handed to me General Grant's letter and I handed to him General Lee's reply, and the work was done.

Contrasts of dress.

Some further conversation of a general nature took place, in the course of which General Grant said to General Lee that he had come to the meeting as he was, and without his sword, because he [360] did not wish to detain General Lee, until he could send back to his wagons, which were several miles away.

This was the only reference made by anyone to the subject of dress on that occasion. General Lee had prepared himself for the meeting with more than usual care, and was in full uniform, wearing a very handsome sword and sash. This was doubtless the reason of General Grant's reference to himself.

Memorable closing scenes.

At last General Lee took leave of General Grant, saying he would return to his headquarters and designate the officers who were to act on our side in arranging the details of the surrender. We mounted our horses, which the orderly was holding in the yard, and rode away, a number of Federal officers, standing on the porch in front of the house, looking at us.

When General Lee returned to his lines, a large number of men gathered around him, to whom he announced what had taken place, and the causes that had rendered the surrender necessary. Great emotion was manifested by officers and men, but love and sympathy for their commander mastered every other feeling.

According to the report of the chief of ordinance, less than eight thousand armed men surrendered, exclusive of the cavalry. The others who were present were unarmed, having been unable to carry their arms from exhaustion and hunger. Many had fallen from the ranks during the arduous march, and unarmed men continued to arrive for several days after the surrender, swelling the number of paroled prisoners greatly beyond the actual effective force.

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