Saturday, February 23, 2019

A is for Appomattox (Blogging Through the Alphabet)

This post contains affiliate links. For more information, please see my Terms of Use and Disclosure Policy page. Thank you.

History plays a very important part in my life. The study and learning of history is a fond reminder of my times spent with my Grandpop as he showed me books about Ancient Egypt and World War II. So – because history is a key to me, I will be sharing 26 history-related topics through our new Blogging Through the Alphabet Series.

To End a Civil War 

Looking at how to end the American Civil War from the Northern perspective, the Union command had one goal with a two-pronged approach. There were two things that needed to be accomplished to suppress the Rebellion:  1) war needed to be brought to all areas of the South (think in terms of Sherman's marching to the Sea) and 2) Lee's Army (The Army of Northern Virginia) needed to be broken.

During the Winter of 1864-1865, Grant and Lee were situated along the Petersburg and Richmond railroad lines and roadways. With main forces of both the North and the South in the same general area, the war could be brought to a quick end only if Lee's army remained secluded from that of the rest of the Southern army. For example, Grant did not want Lee's army to join up with those men under the command of Joseph Johnston.

Needs to Be Change

Unfortunately for the South, desertions from the Army of Northern Virginia were on the rise – as high as 100 a day. Something needed to change for the war to end in favor of the Confederacy.

The last great offensive push by Lee was on March 25, 1865 at Fort Stedman. The day started successfully for the Confederates but the garrison had been caught by surprise and the battle only lasted about four hours. It ended up turning into a defeat costing Lee 3,500 to 5,000 men.

After a battle at Five Forks, where the Union Army under Philip Henry Sheridan triumphed over the Confederates, Lee's army was gone from the Petersburg area. It was thought the war might end that day as the Rebels were being hunted down in the streets of Petersburg. This was not to be the end, for 600 Mississippians and North Carolinans gave Lee time to rally his men. But after a ten-month siege of Petersburg, Lee's men retreated westward. And the city of Richmond – the seat of the Confederate government – was to be evacuated on April 2, 1865. The government leaders did not want to stay without the protection of Lee's Army. They even ordered the warehouses and arsenals to be set on fire to prevent them from falling into the enemies' hands.

As Lee and his army moved westward – hoping to meet up with Joseph Johnston – and Sheridan's infantry and calvary moved in the same direction, Lee's men needed food after fleeing the Petersburg-Richmond area. But they found nothing even when sending out units to forage the countryside. From then till the surrender, Lee's Army lost soldiers to hunger, capture, and desertion. For example, on April 6, Union corps captured about 6,000 of Lee's men causing him to state "Has the army been dissolved?"

Fall of Richmond, VA (image from 


On April 7, Grant sent a note to Lee seeking his surrender. Lee responded requesting the terms. This was not to be the end and the Rebel yell would be heard at least one more time before the surrender in Virginia. Lee's army drove back Union horsemen on the morning of April 9 but were met with two infantry corps coming from the front and two coming from the rear – Lee's army was outnumbered five to one. Lee sent a message to Grant asking for surrender terms.

Grant and Lee at McLean House

McClean's House 

Lee and Grant met in the parlor of Wilmer McClean's house in Appomattox Court House, Virginia.

Note: Wilmer McClean held property near the battlefield of First Manassas, Maryland. McClean decided to move farther south to a place far away from the war but the war found him again.

Much has been made over the attire of Grant and Lee at this meeting. Lee arrived impeccably dressed as a soldier while Grant arrived in muddy clothing. Grant rushed to the McLean house as he did not want Lee to sit and wait. It was not intended as a slight or humiliation to Lee by dressing shabby.

Brief small talk gave way to discussion of terms of surrender. Grant offered generous terms as President Lincoln wanted Reconstruction to progress. There was no desire for ultimate punishment. There would be no future prosecution of Confederate troops for treason.


  • All Southerners were allowed to keep their horses (as enlisted men owned their own horses) 
  • 25,000 rations from Union Army sent to Confederate Army 
  • No Confederate taken into custody – signed paroles and headed home 
Lee rode away from the McClean house and some of the men crowded around him. This was one of many moments that showed the bond between Lee and his men.

Grant seemed melancholy after the surrender was completed. There was no great celebration as Grant told the Union camps to stop their joyful firing of guns. Grant said: "The war is over, the rebels are our countrymen again, and the best sign of rejoicing after the victory will be to abstain from all demonstrations."

The formal surrender took place on April 12, 1865 and both Lee and Grant were already gone. The Federal troops, under the command of Joshua L. Chamberlain, awaited the surrender of the Confederate's muskets, cartridge boxes, and banners. 28,000 men were paroled at Appomattox and the Army of Northern Virginia was no more.

Joshua L. Chamberlain (image from

With Lee's surrender at Appomattox, the Confederacy was dead even though Joe Johnston's army was still on the field. The news of the fall of Richmond and the surrender of the Army of Northern Virginia were greeted with great celebration in the Northern states. Because Lee was written about as "the hope of his country" and something that "haunted the union citizens" this was the the war for the North. So while Appomattox was not the literal end of the war, the most important Confederate Army and General was no longer fighting – even if they only had about 25% of the Confederate soldiers.

The war would continue with Johnston surrendering to Sherman in late April, Jefferson Davis' capture on May 10, and the final shots being fired on June 28, 1865 by the Confederate commerce raider Shenandoah capturing 11 US whaling vessels in the Bering Sea.

Looking for more posts about the America Civil War?

Whether you wish to study the American Civil War using music or to learn more about the Civil War in general, specific battles, or key generals, A Mom's Quest to Teach has several posts about the Civil War.

Resources and References

Appomattox Court House National Historical Park in Virginia

Information about the Battle of Appomattox Court House from American Battlefield Trust

Did you write a post for Blogging Through the Alphabet? Want to Link Up?

Inlinkz Link Party

Co-Hosts for Blogging Through the Alphabet 


  1. I had not heard of this battle before, interesting reading.

  2. Wow! Such great information! I cannot wait to see what you write for next week! :)