At dawn on April 9, the Confederate Second Corps under General John B. Gordon attacked Union General Philip Sheridan's cavalry and quickly forced back the first line. The next line, held by Union generals Mackenzie and Crook, slowed the Confederate advance. Gordon's troops charged through the Union lines and took the ridge, but as they reached the crest they saw the entire Union XXIV Corps in line of battle with the Union V Corps to their right.
Many of Lee's officers, including Longstreet, agreed that surrendering the army was the only option left.
When General William Pendleton asked why he had dressed so formally, Lee answered, "I have probably to be General Grant's prisoner and thought I must make my best appearance."
|Ulysses S. Grant in 1865|
Grant gave his reply to Lieutenant Colonel Orville E. Babcock; It took him about an hour to reach Lee. After carefully noting the time of receipt on the envelope, Lee read the message. Still worried about fighting breaking out again, he asked Babcock if he would send a note to General Meade asking him to extend the cease-fire on that front. Babcock at once drafted the message, which reached Meade about an hour later.
|Custer receiving a flag of truce - sketch by Alfred Waud|
|McLean Family on steps of House where surrender took place|
There are 16 people who are known to have attended at least part of the meeting; they were:
Gen. Robert E. Lee
Lt. Col. Charles Marshall
Lt. Gen. Ulysses S. Grant
Lt. Col. Ely Parker
Lt. Col. Orville E. Babcock
Maj. Gen. Edward O. C. Ord
Lt. Col. Horace Porter
Capt. Robert T. Lincoln
Lt. Col. Theodore S. Bowers
Maj. Gen. Phillip H. Sheridan
Brig. Gen. John Rawlins
Brig. Gen. Rufus Ingalls
Lt. Col. Adam Badeau
Brig. Gen. George H. Sharpe
Brig. Gen. Michael Morgan
Brig. Gen. Seth Williams
"We entered, and found General Grant sitting at a marble-topped table in the center of the room, and Lee sitting beside a small oval table near the front window, in the corner opposite to the door by which we entered, and facing General Grant. We walked in softly and ranged ourselves quietly about the sides of the room, very much as people enter a sick-chamber when they expect to find the patient dangerously ill.
The contrast between the two commanders was striking, and could not fail to attract marked attention they sat ten feet apart facing each other. General Grant, then nearly forty-three years of age, was five feet eight inches in height, with shoulders slightly stooped. His hair and full beard were a nut-brown, without a trace of gray in them. He had on a single-breasted blouse, made of dark-blue flannel, unbuttoned in front, and showing a waistcoat underneath. He wore an ordinary pair of top-boots, with his trousers inside, and was without spurs. The boots and portions of his clothes were spattered with mud. He had no sword, and a pair of shoulder-straps was all there was about him to designate his rank. In fact, aside from these, his uniform was that of a private soldier.
Lee, on the other hand, was fully six feet in height, and quite erect for one of his age, for he was Grant's senior by sixteen years. His hair and full beard were silver-gray, and quite thick, except that the hair had become a little thin in the front. He wore a new uniform of Confederate gray, buttoned up to the throat, and at his side he carried a long sword of exceedingly fine workmanship, the hilt studded with jewels.
His top-boots were comparatively new, and seemed to have on them some ornamental stitching of red silk. Like his uniform, they were singularly clean, and but little travel-stained. On the boots were handsome spurs, with large rowels. A felt hat, which in color matched pretty closely that of his uniform, and a pair of long buckskin gauntlets lay beside him on the table.
General Grant began the conversation by saying 'I met you once before, General Lee, while we were serving in Mexico, when you came over from General Scott's headquarters to visit Garland's brigade, to which I then belonged. I have always remembered your appearance, and I think I should have recognized you anywhere.'
'Yes,' replied General Lee, 'I know I met you on that occasion, and I have often thought of it and tried to recollect how you looked, but I have never been able to recall a single feature.'"The two generals talked a bit more about Mexico, and then moved on to a discussion of the terms of the surrender. The terms were as generous as Lee could hope for; his men would not be imprisoned or prosecuted for treason. In addition to his terms, Grant also allowed the defeated men to take home their horses and mules to carry out the spring planting and provided Lee with a supply of food rations for his starving army.
Grant said to Lee that he had come to the meeting as he was and without his sword, because he did not wish to detain General Lee until he could send back to his wagons, which were several miles away.
"At a little before 4 o'clock General Lee shook hands with General Grant, bowed to the other officers, and with Colonel Marshall left the room. One after another we followed, and passed out to the porch. Lee signaled to his orderly to bring up his horse, and while the animal was being bridled the general stood on the lowest step and gazed sadly in the direction of the valley beyond where his army lay - now an army of prisoners. He smote his hands together a number of times in an absent sort of way; seemed not to see the group of Union officers in the yard who rose respectfully at his approach, and appeared unconscious of everything about him. All appreciated the sadness that overwhelmed him, and he had the personal sympathy of every one who beheld him at this supreme moment of trial. The approach of his horse seemed to recall him from his reverie, and he at once mounted. General Grant now stepped down from the porch, and, moving toward him, saluted him by raising his hat. He was followed in this act of courtesy by all our officers present; Lee raised his hat respectfully, and rode off to break the sad news to the brave fellows whom he had so long commanded."
Grant returned inside the house, where he wrote a series of orders to his forces regarding implementation of the surrender. So engrossed was he in making certain that all the necessary instructions had been issued that it wasn't until he left the McLean house and was riding back toward his headquarters, that he realized he had not officially notified the government in Washington, D.C.
"General Lee surrendered the army of Northern Virginia this afternoon on terms proposed by myself. The accompanying additional correspondence will show the conditions fully."The unfortunate Wilmer McLean was besieged by Yankee officers who made off with furniture and other items from the surrender room. A few tried to assuage their consciences by forcing a payment upon the reluctant host, but nothing was taken with his willing permission. (The table and chairs used by Lee and Grant when negotiating the surrender are now part of the collections of the Smithsonian Institution's National Museum of American History.)
|Robert E. Lee, 1865 photograph|
|New York Times, April 10, 1865|
There were several more small battles after the surrender, with the Battle of Palmito Ranch on May 12-13 commonly regarded as the final military action of the Confederacy.
General Stand Watie surrendered the last sizable organized Confederate force on June 23, 1865.
The last Confederate surrender occurred on November 6, 1865, when the Confederate warship CSS Shenandoah surrendered at Liverpool, England.