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From Manassas to Appomattox
Chapter 43a - Appomattox.
Some of General Lee's Officers say to him that "Further Resistance is Hopeless"—Longstreet does not approve—General Grant calls for Surrender—"Not yet"—The Confederate Chieftain asks Terms—His Response to his Officers as represented by General Pendleton—Correspondence of Generals Lee and Grant—Morning of April 9—General Lee rides to meet the Federal Commander, while Longstreet orders the Last Line of Battle—Longstreet endeavors to recall his Chief, hearing of a Break where the Confederate Troops could pass—Custer demands Surrender of Longstreet—Beminded of Irregularity, and that he was "in the Enemy's Lines"—Meeting with General Grant- Capitulation—Last Scenes.


THE beginning of the end was now at hand,—not perhaps necessarily, but, at least, as the sequence of cause and effect actually followed.

" An event occurred on the 7th," says General Long, " which must not be omitted from the narrative. Perceiving the difficulties that surrounded the army, and believing its extrication hopeless, a number of the principal officers, from a feeling of affection and sympathy for the commander-in-chief, and with a wish to lighten his responsibility and soften the pain of defeat, volunteered to inform him that, in their opinion, the struggle had reached a point where further resistance was hopeless, and that the contest should be terminated and negotiations opened for a surrender of the army. The delivery of this opinion was confided to General Pendleton, who, both by his character and devotion to General Lee, was well qualified for such an office. The names of Longstreet and some others, who did not coincide in the opinion of their associates, did not appear in the list presented by Pendleton."

A little after nightfall a flag of truce appeared under torchlight in front of Mahone's line bearing a note to General Lee:

" 5 P.M., April 7, 1865.

" Commanding Confederate States Army:
"GENERAL,—The results of the last week must convince you of the hopelessness of further resistance on the part of the Army of Northern Virginia in this struggle. I feel that it is so, and. regard it as my duty to shift from myself the responsibility of any further effusion of blood by asking of you the surrender of that portion of the Confederate army known as the Army of Northern Virginia. '

' Very respectfully, your obedient servant,
"U. S. GRANT, "Lieutenant-General, Commanding Armies of the United States."

I was sitting at his side when the note was delivered. He read it and handed it to me without referring to its contents. After reading it I gave it back, saying, " Not yet.":
General Lee wrote in reply,— "

April 7,1865.

"GENERAL,—I have received your note of this day. Though not entertaining the opinion you express on the hopelessness of further resistance on the part of the Army of Northern Virginia, I reciprocate your desire to avoid useless effusion of blood, and therefore, before considering your proposition, ask the terms you will offer on condition of its surrender.

"R.E.LEE, "

I was not informed of the contents of the return note, but thought, from the orders of the night, it did not mean surrender. General Lee ordered my command from forward- to rear-guard, and his cavalry in rear of the ma.rch. The road was clear at eleven o'clock, and we marched at twelve. The enemy left us to a quiet day's march on the 8th, nothing disturbing the rear-guard, and our left flank being but little annoyed, but our animals were worn and reduced in strength by the heavy haul through rain and mud during the march from Petersburg, and the troops of our broken columns were troubled and faint of heart.

We passed abandoned wagons in flames, and limbers and caissons of artillery burning sometimes in the middle of the road. One of my battery commanders reported his horses too weak to haul his guns. He was ordered to bury the guns and cover their burial-places with old leaves and brushwood. Many weary soldiers were picked up and many came to the column from the woodlands, some with, many without, arms,—all asking for food.

General Grant renewed efforts on the 8th to find a way to strike across the head of our march by his cavalry, the Army of the James and the Fifth Corps pursuing our rear-guard with the Second and Sixth Corps of the Army of the Potomac.

In the forenoon, General Pendleton came to me and reported the proceedings of the self-constituted council of war of the night before, and stated that he had been requested to make the report and ask to have me bear" it to General Lee, in the name of the members of the council. Much surprised, I turned and asked if he did not know that the Articles of War provided that officers or soldiers who asked commanding officers to surrender should be shot, and said,—

"If General Lee doesn't know when to surrender until I tell him, he will never know."

It seems that General Pendleton then went to General Lee and made the report. General Long's account of the interview, as reported by Pendleton, is as follows :

"General Lee was lying on the ground. No others heard the conversation between him and myself. He received my communication with the reply, ' Oh, no, I trust that it has not come to that,' and added, 'General, we have yet too many bold men to think of laying down our arms. The enemy do not fight with -pint, while our boys still do. Besides, if I were to say a word to the Federal commander, he would regard it as such a confession of weakness as to make it the condition of demanding an unconditional surrender, a proposal to which I will never listen.
. . . I have never believed we could, against the gigantic combination for our subjugation, make good, in the long run, our independence, unless foreign powers should, directly or indirectly, assist us.
. . . But such considerations really make with me no difference. We had, I was satisfied, sacred principles to maintain, and rights to defend, for which we were in duty bound to do our best, even if we perished in the endeavor.' "Such were, as nearly as I can recall them, the exact words of General Lee on that most critical occasion. You see in them the soul of the man. Where his conscience dictated and his judgment decided, there his heart was."

The delicate affection that prompted the knights of later days to offer to relieve the grand commander of his official obligations and take upon themselves responsibility to disarm us and turn us over to the enemy is somewhat pathetic, but when to it are applied the stern rules of a soldier's duty upon a field of emergency, when the commander most needs steady hands and brave hearts, their proceeding would not stand the test of a military tribunal. The interesting part of the interview is that in it our great leader left a sufficient testimonial as a legacy to the soldiers of his column of the right. Though commanders of other columns were mutinous, he had confidence that we were firm and steady in waiting to execute his last command.

During the day General Grant wrote General Lee in reply to his note of the 7th inquiring as to terms of surrender,—

" April 8,1865.
"GENERAL R. E. LEE, " Commanding Confederate States Army:

"GENERAL,—Your note of last evening in reply to mine of the same date, asking the conditions on which I will accept surrender of the Army of Northern Virginia, is just received. In reply I would say that, peace being my great desire, there is but one condition I would insist upon,—namely, that the men and officers surrendered shall be disqualified for taking up arms again against the government of the United States until properly exchanged. I will meet you, or will designate officers to meet any officers you might name for the same purpose, at any point agreeable to you for the purpose of arranging definitely the terms upon which the surrender of the Army of Northern Virginia will be received.

" U. S. GRANT, '
Lieutenant- General. '

' In reply, General Lee wrote,—

"April 8,1865.
"GENERAL,—I received at a late hour your note of to-day. In mine of yesterday I did not intend to propose the surrender of the Army of Northern Virginia, but to ask the terms of your proposition. To be frank, I do not think the emergency has arisen to call for the surrender of this army, but as the restoration of peace should be the sole object of all, I desired to know whether your proposals would lead to that end. I cannot, therefore, meet you with a view to the surrender of 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 ten A.M. to-morrow on the old stage road to Richmond, between the picket lines of the two armies.

"E. E. LEE,
" General.

The enemy's movements of the day were impressive of his desire to get by our left flank and make a strong stand across the route of our head of column. At Prospect Station, General Sheridan was informed of four trains of cars at Appomattox Station loaded with provisions for General Lee's army. He gave notice to Merritt's and Crook's cavalry, and rode twenty-eight miles in time for Ouster's division to pass the station, cut off the trains, and drive back the guard advancing to protect them. He helped himself to the provisions, and captured besides twenty-five pieces of artillery and a wagon and hospital train.

At night General Lee made his head-quarters near the rear-guard, and spread his couch about a hundred feet from the saddle and blanket that were my pillow and spread for the night. If he had a more comfortable bed than mine I do not know, but I think not.

He sent for his cavalry commander, and gave orders for him to transfer his troopers from the rear to the advanced guard, and called General Gordon, commanding in front, for report and orders. The advance was then at Appomattox Court-House, Wallace's brigade resting in the village. His orders were to march at one o'clock in the morning, the trains and advanced forces to push through the village in time for my column to stand and prepare to defend at that point in case of close pursuit. General Gordon reported, as I remember, less than two thousand men. (General Fitzhugh Lee puts it at sixteen hundred, but he may have overlooked Wallace's brigade, which joined the advance on that day. My column was about as it was when it marched from Petersburg. Parts of Ewell's, Andersen's, and Pickett's commands not captured on the march were near us, and reported to me, except Wallace's brigade.

On the 9th the rear-guard marched as ordered, but soon came upon standing trains of wagons in the road and still in park alongside. The command was halted, deployed into position, and ordered to intrench against the pursuing army.

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