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Surrender Letters
April 7, 1865 Grant begans communication with Lee known as the "Surrender Letters." Virginia
  Robert E. Lee
  Ulysses S. Grant


Between April 7 and April 9, 1865 Generals Ulysses S. Grant and Robert E. Lee began truce negotiation in writing. For purposes of clarity we have added comments before each letter, but have left intact all content.

Surrender Letters

Ulysses S. Grant, from his headquarters with the Army of the Potomac began with this note to Lee following the loss at Sailor's (Saylor's) Creek

HEADQUARTERS ARMIES OF THE U. S.,
5 P.M., April 7, 1865.

GENERAL R. E. LEE
Commanding C. S. A.

The result of the last week must convince you of the hopelessness of further resistance on the part of the Army of Northern Virginia in this struggle. I feel that it is so, and regard it as my duty to shift from myself the responsibility of any further effusion of blood, by asking of you the surrender of that portion of the Confederate States army known as the Army of Northern Virginia.

U. S. GRANT,
Lieut.-General.

Lee replied on the evening of the same day as follows:


April 7, 1865.

GENERAL: I have received your note of this day. Though not entertaining the opinion you express on the hopelessness of further resistance on the part of the Army of Northern Virginia, I reciprocate your desire to avoid the useless effusion of blood, and therefore before considering your proposition, ask the terms you will offer on condition of its surrender.

R. E. LEE,
General.

Grant then replied, specifically with terms of surrender:


April 8, 1865.

GENERAL R. E. LEE,
Commanding Confederate States Army

Your note of last evening in reply to mine of same date, asking the condition on which I will accept the surrender of the Army of Northern Virginia is just received. In reply I would say that, peace being my great desire, there is but one condition I would insist upon, namely: that the men and officers surrendered shall be disqualified for taking up arms again against the Government of the United States until properly exchanged. I will meet you, or will designate officers to meet any officers you may name for the same purpose, at any point agreeable to you, for the purpose of arranging definitely the terms upon which the surrender of the Army of Northern Virginia will be received.

U. S. GRANT,
Lieut.-General.

At this point Lee addressed a letter to "General," meaning General Grant, and proposed a meeting a 10:00 am on April 9 on the "old stage road to Richmond" to discuss Grant's terms. Lee apparently felt he could negotiate an armistice rather than a surrender.


April 8,1865.
GENERAL,
I received at a late hour your note of to-day. In mine of yesterday I did not intend to propose the surrender of the Army of Northern Virginia, but to ask the terms of your proposition. To be frank, I do not think the emergency has arisen to call for the surrender of this army, but as the restoration of peace should be the sole object of all, I desired to know whether your proposals would lead to that end. I cannot, therefore, meet you with a view to the surrender of the Army of Northern Virginia; but as far as your proposal may affect the Confederate States forces under my command and tend to the restoration of peace, I should be pleased to meet you at ten A.M. to-morrow on the old stage road to Richmond, between the picket lines of the two armies.

R. E. LEE,
General

General Grant replied:


HEADQUARTERS ARMIES OF THE U. S.,
April 9, 1865.

GENERAL R. E. LEE,
Commanding C. S. A.

Your note of yesterday is received. As I have no authority to treat on the subject of peace, the meeting proposed for ten A.M. to-day could lead to no good. I will state, however, General, that I am equally anxious for peace with yourself, and the whole North entertains the same feeling. The terms upon which peace can be had are well understood. By the South laying down their arms they will hasten that most desirable event, save thousands of human lives and hundreds of millions of property not yet destroyed. Sincerely hoping that all our difficulties may be settled without the loss of another life, I subscribe myself, etc.,

U. S. GRANT,
Lieutenant-General.

This reply to General Lee arrived on the old Stage Road under a white flag carried by Lieutenant Colonel Charles A. Whittier. He had been instructed to await a response from General Lee, which follows:


April 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 request an interview in accordance with the offer contained in your letter of yesterday for that purpose.

R. E. LEE, General.

Following this letter, Whittier returned with bad news. An attack had been ordered, without discretion (the attack could not be cancelled). Lee asked that Whittier deliver the following note to the commanding officer, General George Meade.


9th April 1865
General,

I ask a suspension of hostilities pending the adjustment of the terms of the surrender of this army, in the interview requested in my former communication today.

Very respectfully
Your obt. servt.,
R. E. Lee
Genl.

Just before the federal attack was to commence, Colonel Whittier brought a note from General Meade, granting a hour cease fire and suggesting that Lee try to forward a note to Grant along another road. Lee then sent the following to Grant, a slight revision of a previous note:


Hd Qrs A N Va
9th April 1865

General, I sent a communication to you today from the picket line whither I had gone in hopes of meeting you in pursuance of the request contained in my letter of yesterday. Maj. Gen. Meade informs me that it would probably expedite matters to send a duplicate through some other part of your lines. I therefore request an interview at such time and place as you may designate, to discuss the terms of the surrender of this army in accordance with your offer to have such an interview contained in your letter of yesterday.

Very respectfully
Your obt servt
R. E. Lee
Genl.

Lt. Gen. U. S. Grant,
Comdr. U. S. Armies.

General Grant responded in an undated note (sent on April 9) to Lee:



GENERAL R. E. LEE,
Commanding C. S. Armies.

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,
Lieutenant-General.

As this time, General John B. Gordon [CS] had withdrawn from a engagement known as the Battle of Appomattox and the town of Appomattox Court House sat in the no man's land between the two armies. Lee sent a subordinate to arrange a location for the meeting. He met Wilmer McLean who escorted him first to the courthouse, which was unacceptable, then to his house, which the aide approved of. Arrangements were completed and the location was communicated to General Grant.

All that remained was the actual Surrender at Appomattox

Links appearing on this page:

Army of Northern Virginia
Army of the Potomac
Battle of Appomattox
George Meade
John B. Gordon
Robert E. Lee
Surrender at Appomattox
Ulysses S. Grant

Surrender Letters was last changed on - March 14, 2006
Surrender Letters was added in 2005





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