Appomattox Court House Agreement & Meeting
Meeting at Appomattox Court House
|Generals Grant and Lee
|Courtesy Appomattox Court House NHP
THE GENTLEMEN'S AGREEMENT
On the morning of April 9, while General Robert E. Lee realized that the retreat of his beleaguered army had finally been halted, U. S. Grant was riding toward Appomattox Court
House where Union Cavalry, followed by infantry from the V, XXIV, and XXV Corps had blocked the Confederate path. Lee had
sent a letter to Grant requesting a meeting to discuss his army's surrender and this letter overtook Grant and his party just
before noon about four miles west of Walker's Church (present-day Hixburg). Grant, who had been suffering from a severe headache,
later remembered that upon reading Lee's letter the pain in his head had disappeared. He stopped to prepare his reply to Lee,
writing that he would push to the front to meet him.
|Appomattox Court House Agreement and Meeting
|Civil War Appomattox Courthouse Meeting and Agreement
The location of the meeting was left to Lee's discretion. Lt.
Colonel Orville E . Babcock and his orderly, Capt. Dunn, took Grant's reply and rode ahead. Babcock found Lee resting under
an apple tree near the Appomattox River. After reading Grant's letter, Lee, his Aide-de-Camp Lt. Colonel Charles Marshall,
and Private Joshua O. Johns rode toward Appomattox Court House accompanied by Federal Officers Lt. Col. Babcock and Capt.
William McKee Dunn. Marshall and Johns rode ahead of Lee in order to find a place for the generals to confer. As Marshall
passed through the village he saw Wilmer McLean in the vicinity of the courthouse. He asked McLean if he knew of a suitable
location, and McLean took him to an empty structure that was without furniture. Marshall immediately rejected this offer.
Then McLean offered his own home. After seeing the comfortable country abode, Marshall readily accepted and sent Private Johns
back to inform General Lee that a meeting site had been found.
|Appomattox Court House Civil War Surrender Flag
|Matthew G. Bisanz
Lee arrived at the McLean house about one o'clock and took a
seat in the parlor. A half hour later, the sound of horses on the stage road signaled the approach of General Grant. Entering
the house, Grant greeted Lee in the center of the room. The generals presented a contrasting appearance; Lee in a new uniform
and Grant in his mud-spattered field uniform. Grant, who remembered meeting Lee once during the Mexican War, asked the Confederate general if he recalled their meeting. Lee replied that he did, and the two conversed in a very
cordial manner, for approximately 25 minutes. The subject had not yet gotten around to surrender until finally, Lee, feeling
the anguish of defeat, brought Grant's attention to it. Grant, who later confessed to being embarrassed at having to ask for
the surrender from Lee, said simply that the terms would be just as he had outlined them in a previous letter.
The terms would parole officers and enlisted men but required
that all Confederate military equipment be relinquished. The discussion between the generals then drifted into the prospects
for peace, but Lee, once again taking the lead, asked Grant to put his terms in writing. When Grant finished, he handed the
terms to his former adversary, and Lee -- first donning spectacles used for reading-- quietly looked them over. When he finished
reading, the bespectacled Lee looked up at Grant and remarked "This will have a very happy effect on my army." Lee asked if
the terms allowed his men to keep their horses, for in the Confederate army, men owned their mounts . Lee explained that his
men would need these animals to farm once they returned to civilian life. Grant responded that he would not change the terms
as written (which had no provisions allowing private soldiers to keep their mounts) but would order his officers to allow
any Confederate claiming a horse or a mule to keep it. General Lee agreed that this concession would go a long way toward
promoting healing. Grant's generosity extended further. When Lee mentioned that his men had been without rations for several
days, the Union commander arranged for 25, 000 rations to be sent to the hungry Confederates. After formal copies of the surrender
terms and Lee's acceptance had been drafted and exchanged, the meeting ended.
In a war that was marked by such divisiveness and bitter fighting,
it is remarkable that it ended so simply. Grant's compassion and generosity did much to allay the emotions of the Confederate
troops. As for Robert E. Lee, he realized that the best course was for his men to return home and resume their lives as American
Before he met with General Grant, one of Lee's officers (General E. Porter Alexander) had suggested fighting a guerrilla war, but Lee had rejected the idea. It would only cause more pain and suffering
for a cause that was lost. The character of both Lee and Grant was of such a high order that the surrender of the Army of
Northern Virginia has been referred to as "The Gentlemen's Agreement."
Sources: National Park Service; Appomattox Court House National Historic Park.
Fields of Honor: Pivotal Battles of the Civil War, by Edwin C. Bearss (Author),
James McPherson (Introduction). Description: Bearss, a former chief historian of the
National Parks Service and internationally recognized American Civil War historian, chronicles 14 crucial battles, including
Fort Sumter, Shiloh, Antietam, Gettysburg, Vicksburg, Chattanooga, Sherman's march through the Carolinas, and Appomattox--the
battles ranging between 1861 and 1865; included is an introductory chapter describing John Brown's raid in October 1859. Continued
Bearss describes the terrain, tactics, strategies, personalities,
the soldiers and the commanders. (He personalizes the generals and politicians, sergeants and privates.) The text is
augmented by 80 black-and-white photographs and 19 maps. It is like touring the battlefields without leaving home. A must
for every one of America's countless Civil War buffs, this major work will stand as an important
reference and enduring legacy of a great historian for generations to come. Also available in hardcover: Fields of Honor: Pivotal Battles of the Civil War.
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