Recollections and Letters of General Robert E. Lee

After his last attempt was made with Gordon and Fitz Lee to breakthrough the lines of the enemy in the early morning of the 9th, andColonel Veneble informed him that it was not possible, he said:

"Then there is nothing left me but to go and see General Grant."When some one near him, hearing this, said:

"Oh, General, what will history say of the surrender of the army inthe field?" he replied:

"Yes, I know they will say hard things of us; they will not understandhow we were overwhelmed by numbers; but that is not the question,Colonel; the question is, is it right to surrender this army? If itis right, then I will take all the responsibility."

There had been some correspondence with Grant just before theconversation with General Pendleton. After Gordon's attack failed, aflag of truce was sent out, and, about eleven o'clock, General Leewent to meet General Grant. The terms of surrender were agreed upon,and then General Lee called attention to the pressing needs of hismen. He said:

"I have a thousand or more of your men and officers, whom we haverequired to march along with us for several days. I shall be glad tosend them to your lines as soon as it can be arranged, for I have noprovisions for them. My own men have been living for the last fewdays principally upon parched cord, and we are badly in need of bothrations and forage."

Grant said he would at once send him 25,000 rations. General Lee toldhim that amount would be ample and a great relief. He then rode backto his troops. The rations issued then to our army were the suppliesdestined for us but captured at Amelia Court House. Had they reachedus in time, they would have given the half-starved troops that wereleft strength enough to make a further struggle. General Longgraphically pictures the last scenes:

"It is impossible to describe the anguish of the troops when it wasknown that the surrender of the army was inevitable. Of all theirtrials, this was the greatest and hardest to endure. There was noconsciousness of shame; each heart could boast with honest pride thatits duty had been done to the end, and that still unsullied remainedits honour. When, after this interview with General Grant, GeneralLee again appeared, a shout of welcome instinctively went up from thearmy. But instantly recollecting the sad occasion that brought himbefore them, their shouts sank into silence, every hat was raised,and the bronzed faces of thousands of grim warriors were bathed intears. As he rode slowly along the lines, hundreds of his devotedveterans pressed around the noble chief, trying to take his hand,touch his person, or even lay their hands upon his horse, thusexhibiting for him their great affection. The General then with headbare, and tears flowing freely down his manly cheeks, bade adieu tothe army."

In a few words: "Men, we have fought through the war together; Ihave done my best for you; my heart is too full to say more," he badethem good-bye and told them to return to their homes and become goodcitizens. The next day he issued his farewell address, the lastorder published to the army:

"Headquarters, Army of Northern Virginia, April 10, 1865.

"After four years' of arduous service, marked by unsurpassed courageand fortitude, the Army of Northern Virginia has been compelled toyield to overwhelming numbers and resources. I need not tell thesurvivors of so many hard-fought battles, who have remained steadfastto the last, that I have consented to this result from no distrustof them; but, feeling that valour and devotion could accomplish nothingthat could compensate for the loss that would have attended thecontinuation of the contest, I have determined to avoid the uselesssacrifice of those whose past services have endeared them to theircountrymen. By the terms of the agreement, officers and men can returnto their homes and remain there until exchanged. You will take withyou the satisfaction that proceeds from the consciousness of dutyfaithfully performed; and I earnestly pray that a merciful God willextend to you his blessing and protection. With an increasingadmiration of your constancy and devotion to your country, and agrateful remembrance of your kind and generous consideration of myself,I bid you an affectionate farewell.

"R. E. Lee, General."

General Long says that General Meade called on General Lee on the 10th,and in the course of conversation remarked:

"Now that the war may be considered over, I hope you will not deem itimproper for me to ask, for my personal information, the strength ofyour army during the operations around Richmond and Petersburg."General Lee replied:

"At no time did my force exceed 35,000 men; often it was less." Witha look of surprise, Meade answered:

"General, you amaze me; we always estimated your force at about seventythousand men."

General de Chanal, a French officer, who was present, states thatGeneral Lee, who had been an associate of Meade's in the engineers inthe "old army," said to him pleasantly:

"Meade, years are telling on you; your hair is getting quite gray."

"Ah, General Lee," was Meade's prompt reply, "it is not the work ofyears; YOU are responsible for my gray hairs!"

"Three days after the surrender," says Long, "the Army of NorthernVirginia had dispersed in every direction, and three weeks later theveterans of a hundred battles had exchanged the musket and the swordfor the implements of husbandry. It is worthy of remark that neverbefore was there an army disbanded with less disorder. Thousands ofsoldiers were set adrift on the world without a penny in their pocketsto enable them to reach their homes. Yet none of the scenes of riotthat often follow the disbanding of armies marked their course."

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