On April 9, 1865, just three days shy of four years since it began, the Civil War ended at Appomattox. To mark this landmark event in American history, see how much you know about the surrender that ended the Civil War...
What Was the Practical Effect of Lee's Surrender? Lee was the commander of the Army of Northern Virginia, which was the primary force of the Confederacy in the eastern theater of the Civil War. Having been outflanked in a lengthy engagement near Petersburg, Lee decided his only course of action was to head west in an attempt to join his forces with those of the Army of Tennessee under the command of Confederate General Joseph E. Johnston. However, Union forces once again outflanked the Confederates, and a series of battles ensued, further weakening Lee's forces. His troops depleted in numbers and starved for supplies, Lee decided the time had come to surrender. While only one of the Confederate armies had surrendered, Lee's army was by far the most distinguished of those fighting for the causes of the South, and thus his surrender was the beginning of the end for the Confederacy. Although scattered skirmishes continued for a few weeks, the Civil War quickly drew to an end.
What Was Notable about the Place of Surrender? The surrender ceremony took place in the parlor of a home owned by Wilmer McLean and located close to Appomattox Court House. Forty-six-year-old McLean was too old to serve in the Confederate armed forces when the war broke out, but he soon found himself in the thick of things anyway. At the time McLean was living in a plantation home near Manassas that had been inherited by his wife. As Union troops approached from the east in July 1861, Confederate General P.G.T. Beauregard seized the home for use as his headquarters. The home and its outbuildings suffered significant damage in the ensuing fighting. After the dust had cleared, McLean decided to relocate his family to Appomattox Court House, which he felt was far enough away from the frontlines to be safe. Less than four years later, the conflict once again caught up to the embattled McLeans, and it was in their new home that Lee surrendered to Grant.
What Terms of Surrender Did Grant Demand of Lee? In victory, Grant was magnanimous, offering Lee's Army of Northern Virginia terms that were relatively generous considering the fierce fighting that had gone on for more than four years. Lee's officers were allowed to keep their sidearms, and Grant decreed that none of Lee's men was to be imprisoned or tried for treason. Grant also said that Lee's troops could keep their horses and mules so that they could make their way back to their homes. Of most immediate importance to the Confederate troops under Lee's command, Grant ordered that Union rations be distributed to them so that they could eat before setting off on their journeys homeward.
How Many Americans Died in the Civil War?
Approximately 625,000 men died in the Civil War, more Americans than in World War I, World War II, the Korean War and the Vietnam War combined. The Civil War death toll represented roughly 2 percent of the U.S. population at that time. If the names of the Civil War dead were arranged like the names on the Vietnam Memorial, it would stretch over 10 times the wall’s length.
Photo credit: Eli Christman