Surrender at Appomattox, 1865
I am southern born and raised, as were my parents. I am of Caucasian race, but of poor, farmer linage on my maternal side. On my parental side I found there is a McClary who fought in our revolutionary war and died at Bunker Hill. There is a fort in Maine named for him as he was the highest ranking officer to die in that battle (which really wasn’t fought at Bunker Hill). His nephew fought with him, the son of his brother John, as near as I can figure from Ansesstry.com.
That branch (the nephew) went on to live and farm in South Carolina. It is my understanding they had quite a nice plantation and I assume owned slaves. This is where records get foggy because much was recorded in family Bibles, which were lost or burned in the Civil War. My Grandfather was born in that area, his father Samuel McClary came up missing in or around the war between the states. His mother, Catherine (my great-grandmother) remarried a Clark and had two children.
I have discovered there are many who carry the name McClary of both races in the South Carolina and Georgia area. Many slaves took on their master’s last name, when freed. If we did DNA tests, we would probably find that we are related, regardless of skin color.
I have visited many battlefields, memorial sites, grave sites dating back to that complicated, but necessary war. However, I had never visited Appomattox until just a few days ago.
Below are eye witness accounts of the surrender and exchange along with the pictures I took the day we visited.
On our way home we drove by Greeneville, TN, which noted it was the home of Andrew Johnson. I found it absolutely amazing to discover the Vice President, soon to be President after the assassination of Abraham Lincoln was a southerner – amazing.
“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 moved on to a discussion of the terms of the surrender when Lee asked Grant to commit the terms to paper:
“‘Very well,’ replied General Grant, ‘I will write them out.’ And calling for his manifold order-book, he opened it on the table before him and proceeded to write the terms. The leaves had been so prepared that three impressions of the writing were made. He wrote very rapidly, and did not pause until he had finished the sentence ending with ‘officers appointed by me to receive them.’ Then he looked toward Lee, and his eyes seemed to be resting on the handsome sword that hung at that officer’s side. He said afterward that this set him to thinking that it would be an unnecessary humiliation to require officers to surrender their swords, and a great hardship to deprive them of their personal baggage and horses, and after a short pause he wrote the sentence: ‘This will not embrace the side-arms of the officers, nor their private horses or baggage.’
Grant handed the document to Lee. After reviewing it, Lee informed Grant that the Cavalry men and Artillery men in the Confederate Army owned their horses and asked that they keep them. Grant agreed and Lee wrote a letter formally accepting the surrender. Lee then made his exit.
Yes, it was ended, but not over. Much hardship was left in the wake of this war and is still felt deep in the identity of the people of both races today. A proud flesh of our souls, which can easily be brought to fresh pain by many who wish retribution or division of some sort.
Time and progress hasn’t fully healed this deep gash in the soul of our country, but we have come a long way and I for one am not ready to give up. My prayer is that the re-union that was formed that day will continue to grow into a culture where Martin Luther King, Jr’s “Dream” will be flesh. Amen