Lee's surrender at Appomattox: 150th anniversary

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streiff, a contributing writer at RedState, has written a detailed and stirring account of the days leading up to and following Gen. Robert E. Lee's surrender of the Confederate Army of Northern Virginia at Appomattox Courthouse to Gen. Ulysses S. Grant on April 9, 1865.

April 7, 1865. Prelude to Appomattox

April 8, 1865. On the eve of surrender

April 9, 1865. The Surrender at Appomattox

In the final installment, he cites the surrender as one of three "critical points in American history: points after Independence was a done deal but where the very fate of the Republic teetered on razor's edge." Washington's handling of the Newburgh Conspiracy at the end of the Revolutionary War and his willingness to step aside after two terms as president were the other two he mentioned.

One of Lee's aides proposed that soldiers steal away in small groups, return to their states and report for further duty, effectively calling for a protracted guerrilla war. Lee immediately shut down the idea. Streiff quotes John Daniel Davidson, writing at The Federalist:

Lee gently rebuked Alexander, reminding him, "We must consider its effect on the country as a whole." The men, he said, "would be without rations and under no control of officers. They would be compelled to rob and steal in order to live. They would become mere bands of marauders, and the enemy's cavalry would pursue them and overrun many sections that may never have occasion to visit. We would bring on a state of affairs it would take the country years to recover from." Alexander would later write: "I had not a single word to say in reply. He had answered my suggestion from a plane so far above it that I was ashamed of having made it."

Grant handled the surrender with leniency and respect for the troops who had valiantly fought on the other side. He allowed the officers to retain their sidearms and all the troops to keep their horses and mules; Lee had told him that the animals were owned by their riders and would be needed for planting crops to feed their families. Grant stifled loud celebrations by his troops: "The war is over; the rebels are our countrymen again, and the best sight of rejoicing after the victory will be to abstain from all demonstrations." Three days later, General Joshua Chamberlain formally received the arms and flags of the Confederates, and he had his troops offer a salute of honor. "These enemies in many a bloody battle ended the war not with the shame on one side and exultation on the other but with a soldier's 'mutual salutation and farewell.'"

Had the defeated and victorious generals not acted magnanimously, the country might have suffered "a prolonged and bloody insurgency in the South that would have caused a permanent rift in the nation."

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This page contains a single entry by Michael Bates published on April 11, 2015 11:07 PM.

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