The Battle of Appomattox Court House (Virginia, U.S.), fought on the morning of April 9, 1865, was one of the last battles of the American Civil War (1861–1865). It was the final engagement of Confederate States Army General-in-Chief, Robert E. Lee, and his Army of Northern Virginia before it surrendered to the Union Army of the Potomac under the Commanding General of the United States, Ulysses S. Grant. Lee, having abandoned the Confederate capital of Richmond, Virginia, after the nine and one-half month Siege of Petersburg and Richmond, retreated west, hoping to join his army with the remaining Confederate forces in North Carolina, the Army of Tennessee under Gen. Joseph E. Johnston. Union infantry and cavalry forces under Gen. Philip Sheridan pursued and cut off the Confederates' retreat at the central Virginia village of Appomattox Court House. Lee launched a last-ditch attack to break through the Union forces to his front, assuming the Union force consisted entirely of lightly armed cavalry. When he realized that the cavalry was now backed up by two corps of Federal infantry, he had no choice but to surrender with his further avenue of retreat and escape now cut off.
The signing of the surrender documents occurred in the parlor of the house owned by Wilmer McLean on the afternoon of April 9. On April 12, a formal ceremony of parade and the stacking of arms led by Southern Maj. Gen. John B. Gordon to Federal Brig. Gen. Joshua Chamberlain of Maine marked the disbandment of the Army of Northern Virginia with the parole of its nearly 28,000 remaining officers and men, free to return home without their major weapons but enabling men to take their horses and officers to retain their sidearms (swords and pistols), and effectively ending the war in Virginia. This event triggered a series of subsequent surrenders across the South, in North Carolina, Alabama and finally Shreveport, Louisiana, for the Trans-Mississippi Theater in the West by June, signaling the end of the four-year-long war.
The final campaign for Richmond, Virginia, the capital of the Confederate States, began when the Union/Federal/Northern Army of the Potomac crossed the James River in June 1864. The armies under the command of Lieutenant General and General-in-Chief Ulysses S. Grant (1822–1885) laid siege to Petersburg, south of Richmond, intending to cut the two cities' supply lines and force the Confederates to evacuate. In the spring of 1865, Confederate States Army Gen. Robert E. Lee (1807–1870), waited for an opportunity to leave the Petersburg lines, aware that the position was untenable, but Union troops made the first move. On April 1, 1865, Maj. Gen. Philip Sheridan's cavalry turned Lee's flank at the Battle of Five Forks. The next day Grant's army achieved a decisive breakthrough, effectively ending the Petersburg siege. With supply railroad lines cut, Lee's men abandoned the trenches they had held for ten months and evacuated on the night of April 2–3.
Lee's first objective was to reassemble and supply his men at Amelia Courthouse. His plan was to link up with Gen. Joseph E. Johnston's Army of Tennessee in North Carolina and go on the offensive after establishing defenses on the Roanoke River in southwest Virginia. When the troops arrived at Amelia on April 4, however, they found no provisions. Lee sent wagons out to the surrounding country to forage, but as a result lost a day's worth of marching time. The army then headed west to Appomattox Station, where another supply train awaited him. Lee's army was now composed of the cavalry corps and two small infantry corps.
En route to the station, on April 6 at Sailor's Creek, nearly one fourth of the retreating Confederate army was cut off by Sheridan's cavalry and elements of the II and VI Corps. Two Confederate divisions fought the VI Corps along the creek. The Confederates attacked but were driven back, and soon after the Union cavalry cut through the right of the Confederate lines. Most of the 7,700 Confederates were captured or surrendered, including Lt. Gen. Richard S. Ewell and eight other general officers. The delay prevented Lee from reaching the Appomattox station until late afternoon on April 8, allowing Sheridan to reach the station ahead of the Southerners that evening, where he captured Lee's supplies and obstructed his path.
Following the minor battles of Cumberland Church and High Bridge, on April 7, General Grant sent a note to Lee suggesting that it was time to surrender the Army of Northern Virginia. In a return note, Lee refused the request, but asked Grant what terms he had in mind. On April 8, Union cavalry under Brig. Gen. and Brevet Maj. Gen. George Armstrong Custer captured and burned three supply trains waiting for Lee's army at the Appomattox Station. Now both of the Federal forces, the Army of the Potomac and the Army of the James, were converging on Appomattox.
With his supplies at Appomattox destroyed, Lee now looked west, to the railway at Lynchburg, where more supplies awaited him. However, on the morning of April 8 a battalion of the 15th Pennsylvania Cavalry was detached from Stoneman's Raid into North Carolina and southwestern Virginia and had made a demonstration to within three miles of Lynchburg, giving the appearance of being the vanguard of a much larger force. Despite this new threat, Lee apparently decided to try for Lynchburg anyway.
While the Union Army was closing in on Lee, all that lay between Lee and Lynchburg was Union cavalry. Lee hoped to break through the cavalry before infantry arrived. He sent a note to Grant saying that he did not wish to surrender his army just yet but was willing to discuss how Grant's terms would affect the Confederacy. Grant, suffering from a throbbing headache, stated that "It looks as if Lee still means to fight." The Union infantry was close, but the only unit near enough to support Sheridan's cavalry was Maj. Gen. John Gibbon's XXIV Corps of the Army of the James. This corps traveled 30 miles (48 km) in 21 hours to reach the cavalry. Maj. Gen. Edward O. C. Ord, commander of the Army of the James, arrived with the XXIV Corps around 4:00 a.m. while the V Corps of the Army of the Potomac was close behind. Sheridan deployed his three divisions of cavalry along a low ridge to the southwest of Appomattox Court House.
At dawn on April 9, 1865, the Confederate Second Corps under Maj. Gen. John B. Gordon attacked Sheridan's cavalry and quickly forced back the first line under Brevet Brig. Gen. Charles H. Smith. The next line, held by Brig. Gens. Ranald S. Mackenzie and George Crook, 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 cavalry saw these Union forces and immediately withdrew and rode off towards Lynchburg. Ord's troops began advancing against Gordon's corps while the Union II Corps began moving against Lt. Gen. James Longstreet's corps to the northeast. Colonel Charles Venable of Lee's staff rode in at this time and asked for an assessment, and 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 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."
Many of Lee's officers, including Longstreet, agreed that surrendering the army was the only option left. The only notable officer opposed to surrender was Longstreet's chief of artillery, Brig. Gen. Edward Porter Alexander, who predicted that if Lee surrendered then "every other [Confederate] army will follow suit".
At 8:00 a.m., Lee rode out to meet Grant, accompanied by three of his aides. Grant received Lee's first letter on the morning of April 9 as he was traveling to meet Sheridan. Grant recalled his migraine seemed to disappear when he read Lee's letter, and he handed it to his assistant Rawlins to read aloud before composing his reply:
General, Your note of this date is but this moment, 11:50 A.M. rec'd., in consequence of my having passed from the Richmond and Lynchburg road. I am at this writing about four miles West of Walker's Church and will push forward to the front for the purpose of meeting you. Notice sent to me on this road where you wish the interview to take place.
Grant's response was remarkable in that it let the defeated Lee choose the place of his surrender. Lee received the reply within an hour and dispatched an aide, Charles Marshall, to find a suitable location for the occasion. Marshall scrutinized Appomattox Court House, a small village of roughly twenty buildings that served as a waystation for travelers on the Richmond-Lynchburg Stage Road. Marshall rejected the first house he saw as too dilapidated, instead settling on the 1848 brick home of Wilmer McLean. McLean had lived near Manassas Junction during the First Battle of Bull Run, and had retired to Appomattox to escape the war.
With gunshots still being heard on Gordon's front and Union skirmishers still advancing on Longstreet's front, Lee received a message from Grant. After several hours of correspondence between Grant and Lee, a cease-fire was enacted and Grant received Lee's request to discuss surrender terms.
Well-dressed in his customary uniform, Lee waited for Grant to arrive. Grant, whose headache had ended when he received Lee's note, arrived at the McLean house in a mud-spattered uniform—a government-issue sack coat with trousers tucked into muddy boots, no sidearms, and with only his tarnished shoulder straps showing his rank. It was the first time the two men had seen each other face-to-face in almost two decades. Suddenly overcome with sadness, Grant found it hard to get to the point of the meeting and instead the two generals briefly discussed their only previous encounter, during the Mexican–American War. Lee brought the attention back to the issue at hand, and Grant offered the same terms he had 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. 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, horses, and personal baggage. 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. Lee, upon discovering Parker to be a Seneca, remarked "It is good to have one real American here." Parker replied, "Sir, we are all Americans." As Lee left the house and rode away, Grant's men began cheering in celebration, but Grant ordered an immediate stop. "I at once sent word, however, to have it stopped," he said. "The Confederates were now our countrymen, and we did not want to exult over their downfall," he said. Custer and other Union officers purchased from McLean the furnishings of the room Lee and Grant met in as souvenirs, emptying it of furniture. Grant soon visited the Confederate army, and then he and Lee sat on the McLean home's porch and met with visitors such as Longstreet and George Pickett before the two men left for their capitals.
On April 10, Lee gave his farewell address to his army. The same day a six-man commission gathered to discuss a formal ceremony of surrender, even though no Confederate officer wished to go through with such an event. Brigadier General (brevet Major General) Joshua L. Chamberlain was the Union officer selected to lead the ceremony. In his memoirs entitled The Passing of the Armies, Chamberlain reflected on what he witnessed on April 12, 1865, as the Army of Northern Virginia marched in to surrender their arms and their colors:
The momentous meaning of this occasion impressed me deeply. I resolved to mark it by some token of recognition, which could be no other than a salute of arms. Well aware of the responsibility assumed, and of the criticisms that would follow, as the sequel proved, nothing of that kind could move me in the least. The act could be defended, if needful, by the suggestion that such a salute was not to the cause for which the flag of the Confederacy stood, but to its going down before the flag of the Union. My main reason, however, was one for which I sought no authority nor asked forgiveness. Before us in proud humiliation stood the embodiment of manhood: men whom neither toils and sufferings, nor the fact of death, nor disaster, nor hopelessness could bend from their resolve; standing before us now, thin, worn, and famished, but erect, and with eyes looking level into ours, waking memories that bound us together as no other bond;—was not such manhood to be welcomed back into a Union so tested and assured? Instructions had been given; and when the head of each division column comes opposite our group, our bugle sounds the signal and instantly our whole line from right to left, regiment by regiment in succession, gives the soldier's salutation, from the "order arms" to the old "carry"—the marching salute. Gordon at the head of the column, riding with heavy spirit and downcast face, catches the sound of shifting arms, looks up, and, taking the meaning, wheels superbly, making with himself and his horse one uplifted figure, with profound salutation as he drops the point of his sword to the boot toe; then facing to his own command, gives word for his successive brigades to pass us with the same position of the manual,—honor answering honor. On our part not a sound of trumpet more, nor roll of drum; not a cheer, nor word nor whisper of vain-glorying, nor motion of man standing again at the order, but an awed stillness rather, and breath-holding, as if it were the passing of the dead!— Joshua L. Chamberlain, The Passing of the Armies, pp. 260–61
Chamberlain's account has been questioned by historian William Marvel, who claims that "few promoted their own legends more actively and successfully than he did".  Marvel points out that Chamberlain in fact did not command the federal surrender detail (but only one of the brigades in General Joseph J. Bartlett's division) and that he did not mention any "salute" in his contemporary letters, but only in his memoirs written many decades later when most other eyewitnesses had already died.
At the surrender ceremonies, about 28,000 Confederate soldiers passed by and stacked their arms. The Appomattox Roster lists approximately 26,300 men who surrendered. This reference does not include the 7,700 who were captured at Sailor's Creek three days earlier, who were treated as prisoners of war.
While General George Meade (who wasn't present at the meeting) reportedly shouted that "it's all over" upon hearing the surrender was signed, roughly 175,000 Confederates remained in the field, but were mostly starving and disillusioned. Many of these were scattered throughout the South in garrisons or guerilla bands while the rest were concentrated in three major Confederate commands. Just as Porter Alexander had predicted, as news spread of Lee's surrender other Confederate commanders realized that the strength of the Confederacy was gone, and decided to lay down their own arms.
Gen. Joseph E. Johnston's army in North Carolina, the most threatening of the remaining Confederate armies, surrendered to Maj. Gen. William T. Sherman at Bennett Place in Durham, North Carolina on April 26, 1865. The 98,270 Confederate troops that laid down their weapons (the largest surrender of the war) marked the virtual end of the conflict.
General Taylor surrendered his army at Citronelle, Alabama in early May, followed by General Edmund Kirby Smith surrendering the Confederate Trans-Mississippi Department on May 26, 1865 near New Orleans, Louisiana. Upon hearing about General Lee's surrender, Nathan Bedford Forrest, "The Wizard of the Saddle", also surrendered, reading his farewell address on May 9, 1865 at Gainesville, Alabama. General Stand Watie surrendered the last sizeable organized Confederate force on June 23, 1865 in Choctaw County, Oklahoma.
There were several more small battles after Lee's surrender. The Battle of Palmito Ranch on May 12–13, 1865, is commonly regarded as the final land battle of the war. Commander James Iredell Waddell surrendered CSS Shenandoah on November 6, 1865, at Liverpool, Great Britain.
Lee never forgot Grant's magnanimity during the surrender, and for the rest of his life would not tolerate an unkind word about Grant in his presence. Likewise, General Gordon cherished Chamberlain's simple act of saluting his surrendered army, calling Chamberlain "one of the knightliest soldiers of the Federal army." This statement by Gordon tends to contradict historian William Marvel's perception of the event.
During the Civil War Centennial, the United States Post Office issued five postage stamps commemorating the 100th anniversaries of famous battles, as they occurred over a four-year period, beginning with the Battle of Fort Sumter Centennial issue of 1961. The Battle of Shiloh commemorative stamp was issued in 1962, the Battle of Gettysburg in 1963, the Battle of the Wilderness in 1964, and the Appomattox Centennial commemorative stamp in 1965.
The 10th New York Volunteer Cavalry Regiment ("Porter Guard") was a cavalry regiment that served in the Union Army during the American Civil War.3rd West Virginia Volunteer Cavalry Regiment
The 3rd West Virginia Volunteer Cavalry Regiment was a cavalry regiment that served in the Union Army during the American Civil War. In 1864, the regiment had an important part in the Battle of Moorefield, where a surprise attack led by General William W. Averell routed Confederate cavalry. The regiment also fought in the latter part of General Philip H. Sheridan's Valley Campaign, and was part of Capehart's Fighting Brigade in General George Armstrong Custer's Third Division. It was present at General Robert E. Lee's surrender of the Army of Northern Virginia at the Battle of Appomattox Court House.41st United States Colored Infantry
The 41st United States Colored Infantry was an infantry regiment that served in the Union Army during the American Civil War. The regiment was composed of African American enlisted men commanded by white officers and was authorized by the Bureau of Colored Troops which was created by the United States War Department on May 22, 1863. The regiment engaged in the Siege of Petersburg and Appomattox Campaign and was present at the unconditional surrender of Confederate General Robert E. Lee and the Army of Northern Virginia at Appomattox Court House on April 9, 1865.5th Vermont Infantry
The 5th Regiment, Vermont Volunteer Infantry (or 5th VVI) was a three years' infantry regiment in the Union Army during the American Civil War.61st Alabama Infantry Regiment
The 61st Alabama Infantry Regiment was an infantry regiment of the Confederate States Army regiment during the American Civil War. The regiment was composed of nine companies from the southern parts of Alabama.8th Regiment Alabama Infantry
The 8th Regiment Alabama Volunteer Infantry was an infantry regiment that served in the Confederate Army during the American Civil War.Appomattox
Appomattox, shorthand for the surrender of Robert E. Lee to Ulysses S. Grant in the American Civil War, may refer to:
Battle of Appomattox Court House, a battle of the American Civil War that was a culmination of the Appomattox Campaign and resulted in the surrender of Robert E. Lee
Appomattox Court House National Historical Park, a National Historical Park in Virginia at the site of the surrenderAppomattox may also refer to:
Appomattox County, Virginia, in the United States
Appomattox, Virginia, a town and the seat of that county
Appomattox Court House (disambiguation), several courthouses in Appomattox, Virginia
Appomattox River, a tributary of the James River in Virginia
Appomattox Basin, a name for the Tri-Cities, Virginia region
Appomattox Manor, a manor in City Point, Hopewell, Virginia
Battle of Appomattox Station, a battle of the American Civil War in Appomattox, Virginia, a day before the Battle of Appomattox Court House
SS Appomattox, a large American wooden steamship operated mainly on the Great Lakes
SS Appomattox (1893), a British steamship of the early 20th century
Appomattox (opera), a 2007 opera in based on the American Civil War, composed by Philip GlassAppomattox Court House
Appomattox Court House could refer to:
The village of Appomattox Court House, now the Appomattox Court House National Historical Park, in central Virginia (U.S.), where Confederate army commander Robert E. Lee surrendered to Union commander Ulysses S. Grant in the American Civil War.
The Battle of Appomattox Court House, fought on the morning of April 9, 1865, one of the last battles of the American Civil War.
The New Appomattox Court House, where locals file lawsuits and do legal business in Appomattox County, Virginia.
The Old Appomattox Court House, a structure within the Appomattox Court House National Historical Park in Virginia.Appomattox Court House National Historical Park
The Appomattox Court House is a National Historical Park of original and reconstructed 19th century buildings in Appomattox County, Virginia. The village is famous as the site of the Battle of Appomattox Court House and containing the house of Wilmer McLean, where the surrender of the Confederate army under Robert E. Lee to Union commander Ulysses S. Grant took place on April 9, 1865, effectively ending the American Civil War. The McLean House was the site of the surrender conference, but the village itself is named for the presence nearby of what is now preserved as the Old Appomattox Court House.
The park was established August 3, 1935. The village was made a national monument in 1940 and a national historical park in 1954. It is located about three miles (5 km) east of Appomattox, Virginia, the location of the Appomattox Station and the "new" Appomattox Court House. It is in the center of the state about 25 miles (40 km) east of Lynchburg, Virginia.The historical park was described in 1989 as having an area of 1,325 acres (536 ha).Cobb's Legion
Cobb's Legion (also known as the Georgia Legion) was an American Civil War unit that was raised on the Confederate side from the State of Georgia by Thomas Reade Rootes Cobb during the summer of 1861. A "legion" consisted of a single integrated command, with individual components from the infantry, cavalry, and artillery. When it was originally raised, the Georgia Legion comprised seven infantry companies, four cavalry troops, and a single battery. The concept of a multiple-branch unit was fine in theory, but never was a practical application for Civil War armies and, early in the war, the individual elements were assigned to other organizations.David Lang (Civil War)
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Isaac Ridgeway Trimble (May 15, 1802 – January 2, 1888) was a United States Army officer, a civil engineer, a prominent railroad construction superintendent and executive, and a Confederate general in the American Civil War. He was born in Virginia, lived in Maryland for much of his adult life, and returned to Virginia in 1861 after Maryland did not secede. Trimble is most famous for his role as a division commander in the assault known as Pickett's Charge at the Battle of Gettysburg. He was wounded severely in the leg during that battle, and was left on the field. He spent most of the remainder of the war as a prisoner, and was finally paroled on April 16, 1865, one week after Robert E. Lee surrendered the Army of Northern Virginia following the Battle of Appomattox Court House.James A. Cunningham
James Adams Cunningham (November 27, 1830 – July 17, 1892) was a volunteer officer in the Union Army during the American Civil War.
Serving as a company commander in the 1st Battalion Massachusetts Infantry (which later became the 32nd Regiment Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry) on garrison duty at Fort Warren in Boston, Cunningham was transferred with his unit to the battle front in the spring of 1862. He fought in numerous battles with the Army of the Potomac, eventually taking command of the 32nd Massachusetts in 1864. In the closing days of the war, Cunningham distinguished himself during the Appomattox Campaign, earning the award of the honorary grade of brevet brigadier general. During the Battle of Appomattox Court House, Cunningham received the flag of surrender sent by General Robert E. Lee.After the war, Cunningham served with the Massachusetts General Court and as Adjutant General of Massachusetts.List of costliest American Civil War land battles
This is a list of the costliest land battles of the American Civil War, measured by casualties (killed, wounded, captured, and missing) on both sides.Repasz Band
The Repasz Band is the longest continuously operated American band which has been active since 1831.The band has played at many historic events which include; Robert E. Lee's surrender at the Battle of Appomattox Court House in 1865, the presidential inauguration parades of Teddy Roosevelt and William Howard Taft and the 1897 dedication of Ulysses S. Grant's tomb.Victoria, Alabama
Victoria, also known as Smut Eye or Buzbeeville, is an unincorporated community in Coffee County, Alabama, United States. Victoria is located along Alabama State Route 125, 10.8 miles (17.4 km) northeast of Elba.West Funk
West Funk (b. 1841 - d. July 29, 1897) was an American soldier who received the Medal of Honor for valor during the American Civil War.William T. Poague
William Thomas Poague (December 20, 1835 – September 8, 1914) was a Confederate States Army officer serving in the Artillery during the American Civil War. He later served as Treasurer of Virginia Military Institute.