SHAKO: April 9, 1865, Lee Surrenders to Grant [UPDATE]
Appomattox Court House.
On this day 150 years ago, the battered Army of Northern Virginia was surrendered by its commander, Robert E. Lee, to the overall commander of the Union armies, Lieutenant General Ulysses S. Grant.
Much has been said about those men and the way they conducted themselves that day after four years of brutal and bitter conflict. Lee, all correct in a dress uniform and sword, Grant, muddy from the ride from his headquarters to the village of Appomattox Court House and the home of Wilmer McLean where the last negotiations took place before the surrender documents were signed. You can read more detailed accounts about it here and here and here.
There was a commemoration by re-enactors today (April 9) at the historic site, you can see a photo slide show here.
While most Americans (and Hollywood script writers) believe Lee’s surrender ended the war. Sadly, it did not. The guns wouldn’t be silenced everywhere for more than a month. A larger Confederate army, commanded by General Joseph E. Johnston surrendered to Major General William T. Sherman in North Carolina on April 26.
The last land battle would take place along the Rio Grande in south Texas on May 12-13 and, ironically, the Confederates won the engagement. In the final hours of the battle, a Union private from Indiana, John J. Williams, was shot fatally and he is considered the last man killed in the war.
But historians note there is an important element to Lee’s surrender. He issued General Order No. 9, which instructed his troops to lay down their arms, return to their homes and — in effect — discouraged them from taking to the hills to mount a guerrilla campaign against the government in Washington.
As a long-time Civil War buff, your 4GWAR editor is embarrassed that we almost let this significant event slip by without marking the occasion. We were a small boy when the Civil War Centennial began in 1960. The last surviving Civil War veteran, a Confederate, had died just a year earlier. We had a new president and the civil rights movement’s attempts to right the lingering wrongs of the post Civil War South were starting to make the evening news. The hundredth anniversary was marked by hundreds of books and magazine articles. There also was a weekly comic strip in the Sunday papers, Civil War trading cards (like baseball cards), a short-lived television show and no end to Civil War-related toys and blue and gray faux kepis (to replace the faux coonskin hats of the previous decade.) It made a lasing impression on us.
UPDATE: Adds historic photo, clarifies Lee’s Order No. 9 and adds background on Civil War Centennial nostalgia.
SHAKO is an occasional 4GWAR posting on military history, traditions and culture. For the uninitiated, a shako is the tall, billed headgear worn by many armies from the Napoleonic era to about the time of the American Civil War. It remains a part of the dress or parade uniform of several military organizations like the corps of cadets at the U.S. Military Academy, West Point, New York.
Entry filed under: Army, Counter Insurgency, Lessons Learned, National Security and Defense, Photos, SHAKO, Traditions. Tags: American Civil War Sesquicentennial, Appomattox Court House, Army, Counter Insurgency, Lee's Surrender, nation building.