Chapter XXX. The Surrender

While Lee's messenger was making his way toward the Union lines, Grant was riding rapidly to the front where his forces had foiled the Confederate cavalry. For more than a week he had been constantly in the saddle, moving from one point on his lines to another and begrudging even the time for food and sleep in his efforts to hasten the pursuit. But the tremendous physical and mental strain to which he had subjected himself had already begun to tell upon him, and he had passed the previous night under a surgeon's care endeavoring to put himself in fit condition for the final struggle which Lee's refusal to surrender led him to expect. The dawn of April 9th, however, found him suffering with a raging headache, and well-nigh exhausted after his sleepless night he rode forward feeling more like going to the hospital than taking active command in the field. He had already advanced some distance and was within two or three miles of Appomattox Court House, when an officer overtook him and handed him these lines from Lee:

"Apr. 9, 1865.

"General:

"I received your note of this morning on the picket line whither I had come to meet you and ascertain definitely what terms were embraced in your proposal of yesterday with reference to the surrender of this army. I now ask an interview in accordance with the offer contained in your letter of yesterday for that purpose.

"R. E. Lee, "General."

The moment Grant's eyes rested on these words his headache disappeared, and instantly writing the following reply, he put spurs to his horse and galloped on:

"Apr. 9, 1865.

"Your note of this date is but this moment (11:50 A. M.) received in consequence of my having passed from the Richmond and Lynchburg Road to the Farmville and Lynchburg Road. I am at this writing about four miles west of Walker's Church and will push forward to the front for the purpose of meeting you. Notice sent to me on this road where you wish the interview to take place will meet me.

"U. S. Grant, "Lt. General."

The troops under Sheridan were drawn up in line of battle when Grant arrived on the scene and his officers, highly excited at the favorable opportunity for attacking the Confederates, urged him to allow no cessation of hostilities until the surrender was actually made. But Grant would not listen to anything of this sort, and directing that he be at once conducted to General Lee, followed an orderly who led him toward a comfortable two-story, brick dwelling in Appomattox village owned by a Mr. McLean who had placed it at the disposal of the Confederate commander.

Mounting the broad piazza steps, Grant entered the house, followed by his principal generals and the members of his staff, and was ushered into a room at the left of the hall, where Lee, accompanied by only one officer, awaited him.

As the two commanders shook hands the Union officers passed toward the rear of the room and remained standing apart. Then Lee motioned Grant to a chair placed beside a small marble-topped table, at the same time seating himself near another table close at hand. Neither man exhibited the slightest embarrassment and Grant, recalling that they had served together during the Mexican War, reminded Lee of this fact, saying that he remembered him very distinctly as General Scott's Chief of Staff but did not suppose that an older and superior officer would remember him. But Lee did remember him and in a few minutes he was chatting quietly with his former comrade about the Mexican campaign and old army days.

It would be impossible to imagine a greater contrast than that afforded by the two men as they thus sat conversing. Lee wore a spotless gray uniform, long cavalry boots, spurs and gauntlets, and carried the beautiful sword given to him by Virginia, presenting altogether a most impressive appearance; and his tall, splendidly proportioned figure and grave dignified bearing heightened the effect. His well-trimmed hair and beard were almost snow white, adding distinction to his calm, handsome face without suggesting age, and his clear eyes and complexion and erect carriage were remarkable for a man of fifty-eight. Grant was barely forty-three, and his hair and beard were brown with a touch of gray, but his face was worn and haggard from recent illness, and his thickset figure and drooping shoulders were those of a man well advanced in years. For uniform he wore the blouse of a private, to which the shoulder straps of a lieutenant-general had been stitched; his trousers were tucked into top boots worn without spurs; he carried no sword and from head to foot he was splashed with mud.

He, himself, was conscious of the strange contrast between his appearance and that of his faultlessly attired opponent, for he apologized for his unkempt condition, explaining that he had come straight from active duty in the field, and then as the conversation regarding Mexico continued he grew so pleasantly interested that the object of the meeting almost passed from his mind, and it was Lee who first recalled it to his attention.

He then called for pencil and paper, and without having previously mapped out any phrases in his mind, he began to draft an informal letter to Lee, outlining the terms of surrender. Nothing could have been more clear and simple than the agreement which he drafted, nor could the document have been more free from anything tending to humiliate or offend his adversary. It provided merely for the stacking of guns, the parking of cannon and the proper enrollment of the Confederate troops, all of whom were to remain unmolested as long as they obeyed the laws and did not again take up arms against the Government, and it concluded with the statement that the side arms of the officers were not to be surrendered and that all such officers who owned their own horses should be permitted to retain them.