On April 9, 1865, 150 years ago, Confederate General Robert E. Lee finally acknowledged the inevitable and surrendered his Army of Northern Virginia to Union General U.S. Grant and the Army of the Potomac at Appomattox Court House, a tiny village that served as a county seat in Virginia. Even though there were still other Confederate armies in the field, Lee’s surrender effectively ended the American Civil War, for by April of 1865 Rebel soldiers were no longer fighting for the Confederacy—they were fighting for Lee. After his surrender the war just petered out.
For example, Mosby’s Raiders disbanded on April 21. Gen. Joe Johnston surrendered his Army of Tennessee to Gen. Sherman on April 26. General Richard Taylor surrendered his forces in Alabama and Mississippi on May 4. General Kirby Smith surrendered his forces west of the Mississippi River on May 26.
Richmond had been evacuated on April 2, and on April 4, President Lincoln visited the captured city and sat in Jefferson Davis’s chair in his office. Lincoln was assassinated on April 14.
Jefferson Davis was captured on May 10.
Lee didn’t surrender to Grant in a courthouse; the surrender took place in the parlor of the home of Wilmer McLean. Highly ironic: In 1861 McLean had lived near Manassas Junction during the First Battle of Bull Run, and he had moved to Appomattox to escape the war.
After 150 years the country and the world are still fascinated by the American Civil War, the the defining event in the country’s history.
In this rendition of the surrender Libbie Custer’s husband George is on the far left.