Ride to Appomattox Courthouse

June 13, 2015

Thanks to Bruce Miles for planning and leading this ride.


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The Battle of Appomattox Court House, fought on the morning of April 9, 1865, was one of the last battles of the American Civil War. It was the final engagement of Confederate Army general Robert E. Lee's Army of Northern Virginia before it surrendered to the Union Army under Lt. Gen. Ulysses S. Grant. Lee, having abandoned the Confederate capital of Richmond, Virginia, after the ten-month Siege of Petersburg, retreated west, hoping to join his army with the Confederate forces in North Carolina. Union forces pursued and cut off the Confederate retreat at the village of Appomattox Court House. Lee launched an attack to break through the Union force to his front, assuming the Union force consisted entirely of cavalry. When he realized that the cavalry was backed up by two corps of Union infantry, he had no choice but to surrender.

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 marked the disbandment of the Army of Northern Virginia and the parole of its officers and men, effectively ending the war in Virginia. This event triggered a series of surrenders across the south, signaling the end of the war.



The Room in the McLean House, at Appomattox C.H., in which Gen. Lee surrendered to Gen. Grant Most written accounts of Robert E. Lee’s surrender to Ulysses S. Grant at Appomattox on April 9, 1865, noted the difference between Lee’s stiff dignity and Grant’s more relaxed demeanor. This lithograph of the event, showing the two men as they waited for the peace terms to be copied, captures that difference better than most. After the surrender, Wilmer McLean, the owner of the house, lost much of his furniture to soldiers desiring mementos of the historic event. Later, in what proved to be a futile effort to recoup his losses and raise funds for his needy family, he commissioned this print. Pictured Left to Right: John Gibbon, George Armstrong Custer, Cyrus B. Comstock, Orville E. Babcock, Charles Marshall, Walter H. Taylor, Robert E. Lee, Philip Sheridan, Ulysses S. Grant, John Aaron Rawlins, Charles Griffin, unidentified, George Meade, Ely S. Parker, James W. Forsyth, Wesley Merritt, Theodore Shelton Bowers, Edward Ord. The man not identified in the picture’s legend is thought to be General Joshua Chamberlain, a hero of Gettysburg who presided over the formal surrender of arms by Lee’s Army of Northern Virginia on April 12, 1865.