Imagens das páginas
PDF
ePub

hopelease night Lee conted by Shimmediate re

the surrender of that portion of the Confederate States army known as the Army of Northern Virginia.”

General Lee replied, expressing a contrary opinion of the hopelessness of his cause and asking Grant's terms.

That night Lee's army attempted to escape to Lynchburg but was confronted by Sheridan's cavalry. Sheridan sent word to Grant, requesting immediate reinforcements of infantry so that he might "perhaps finish the job in the morning.” Sheridan had no faith in Lee's intention of surrendering till compelled to. Grant had replied to Lee's letter:

“Peace being my great desire, there is but one condition I would insist upon, namely, that the men and officers surrendered shall be disqualified from 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 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." This was written on the 8th.

Lee still hoped to reach Appomattox safely. He ordered that his army should push on westward, but answered Grant's letter as follows:

"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 surrender the Army of Northern Virginia; but as far as your proposal may affect the Confederate States forces under my command, and to tend to the restoration of peace, I should be pleased to meet you at 10 A. M. to-morrow, on the old stage road to Richmond, between the picket lines of the two armies."

uation, ith the offer of his armyn. As Sheri

General Grant having no authority to treat on the subject of peace, so informed General Lee on the morning of the 9th. Lincoln, on March 3d, had expressly forbidden Grant to enter into any sort of political negotiation. But he now added an expression of his own desire for peace, and the saving of life and property which its early consummation must effect. This letter he sent to Lee and then himself rode forward to join Sheridan. General Lee found his line of retreat barred by infantry and cavalry.

“The appalling tidings were instantly carried to Lee,” write Nicolay and Hay. “He at once sent orders to cease hostilities, and suddenly brought to a sense of his real situation, sent a note to Grant, asking an interview in accordance with the offer contained in Grant's letter of the 8th for the surrender of his army. Grant had created the emergency calling for such action. As Sheridan was about to charge on the huddled mass of astonished horse and foot in front of him a flag of truce was displayed, and the war was at an end. The Army of Northern Virginia was already captured. 'I've got 'em, like that!' cried Sheridan, doubling up his fist, fearful of some ruse or evasion in the white flag. The Army of the Potomac on the north and east, Sheridan and Ord on the south and west, completely encircled the demoralized and crumbled army of Lee. There was not another day's fighting in them. That morning at three o'clock Gordon had sent word to Lee that he had fought his corps 'to a frazzle,' and could do nothing more unless heavily supported by Longstreet. Lee and his army were prisoners of war before he and Grant met at Appomattox.

"The meeting took place at the house of Wilmer McClean, in the edge of the village. Lee met Grant at the threshold, and ushered him into a small and barely furnished parlor, where were soon assembled the leading officers of the National army. General Lee was accompanied only by his secretary, Colonel Charles Marshall. A short conversation led up to a request from Lee for the terms on which

the surrender of the army would be received. Grant briefly stated the terms which would be accorded. Lee acceded to them, and Grant wrote the following letter:

“'In accordance with the substance of my letter to you of the 8th inst., I propose to receive the surrender of the Army of Northern Virginia on the following terms, to wit: Rolls of all the officers and men to be made out in duplicate, one copy to be given to an officer designated by me, the other to be retained by such officer or officers as you may designate. The officers to give their individual paroles not to take up arms against the government of the United States until properly exchanged; and each company or regimental commander to sign a like parole for the men of their commands. The arms, artillery, and public property to be parked and stacked, and turned over to the officer appointed by me to receive them. This will not embrace the side-arms of the officers, nor their private horses or baggage. This done, each officer and man will be allowed to return to their homes not to be disturbed by the United States authority so long as they observe their parole and the laws in force where they may reside.

"General Grant says in his "Memoirs' that up to the moment when he put pen to paper he had not thought of a word that he should write. The terms he had verbally proposed, and which Lee had accepted, were soon put in writing, and there he might have stopped. But as he wrote, a feeling of sympathy for his gallant antagonist gradually came over him, and he added the extremely liberal terms with which his letter closed. The sight of Lee's sword, an especially fine one, suggested the paragraph allowing officers to retain their side-arms; and he ended with a phrase which he had evidently not thought of, and for which he had no authority, which practically pardoned and amnestied every man in Lee's army—a thing he had refused to consider the day before, and which had been expressly forbidden him in President Lincoln's order of the 3d of March. Yet so great was the joy over the crowning victory, so deep was the gratitude of the government and the people to Grant and his heroic army, that his terms were accepted as he wrote them, and his exercise of the executive prerogative of pardon was entirely overlooked. It must be noticed here, however, as a few days later it led the greatest of Grant's generals into a serious error.

“Lee must have read the memorandum of terms with as much surprise as gratification. He said the permission for officers to retain their side-arms would have a happy effect."

The interview is described further by General Horace Porter, who was present:

“'There is one thing I should like to mention,' said General Lee, after reading Grant's proposition. 'The cavalrymen and artillerists own their own horses in our army. Its organization in this respect differs from that of the United States. I should like to understand whether these men will be permitted to retain their horses.'

“ 'You will find that the terms as written do not allow this,' General Grant replied; ‘only the officers are permitted to take their private property.'

“Lee read over the second page of the letter again, and then said: 'No, I see the terms do not allow it; that is clear. His face showed plainly that he was quite anxious to have this concession made; and Grant said very promptly, and without giving Lee time to make a direct request:

'Well, the subject is quite new to me. Of course I did not know that any private soldiers owned their animals; but I think we have fought the last battle of the war-I sincerely hope so—and that the surrender of this army will be followed soon by that of all the others; and I take it that most of the men in the ranks are small farmers, and as the country has been so raided by the two armies, it is doubtful whether they will be able to put in a crop to carry themselves and their families through the next winter without the aid of the horses they are now riding, and I will arrange it in this way. I will not change the terms

[merged small][merged small][ocr errors]
« AnteriorContinuar »