On April 9, 1865, a dignified meeting of two military commanders in the rural central Virginia village of Appomattox Court House symbolically ended the American Civil War. At the home of Wilmer & Virginia McLean, General Robert E. Lee surrendered the Army of Northern Virginia to Lt. Gen. Ulysses S. Grant, overall commander of the Union forces.
For Lee’s men in gray, hunger and fatigue were more deadly than bullets after four long years of bitter conflict. Lee knew his troops were surrounded here. And although other armies remained in the field, the ceremony at Appomattox precipitated the beginning of the end for the Confederacy. Grant had been compassionate and generous with the surrender terms, sharing the Union rations with these hungry men, and as the thin, ragged gray line marched by with pride, honor met honor as Blue saluted Gray. On April 12th, Lee’s soldiers stacked their arms, surrendered their colors, received their paroles, and began their long walks home.
Appomattox Court House National Historical Park preserves and protects the village of Appomattox Court House, which includes the McLean House and more than two dozen original 19th-century and reconstructed structures on 1,700 acres. In spite of the cold day, we enjoyed a brief stroll around the village, the two videos in the Visitor Center, and the artifacts on display remembering this day when two good men ended a war and a new nation was reborn.