Appomattox--where the USA reunitedWritten by Scott Dreyer
Today is April 9. On this date, in 1865, General Robert E. Lee, the chief general of the Confederate States of America (CSA), surrendered the Army of Northern Virginia (what was left of it) to General Ulysses S. Grant and the Union Army of the Potomac, at Appomattox, Virginia, thus essentially ending the Civil War. In 1865, April 9 was Palm Sunday, the Sunday before Easter.
Appomattox was a sleepy little village, but it made history as the site where Grant's forces cut off and surrounded Lee's, forcing him to surrender. Some of Lee's men urged him to let his forces disband and roam the countryside and carry on a hit-and-run guerilla war, but Lee knew that would only spread more misery and postpone the inevitable. In a mark of greatness, he refused to consider that, and instead ordered his army to surrender. In a matching act of greatness, General Grant showed great clemency to the Southern forces. He hushed his men from cheering the news of the surrender, remarking that we are all Americans now. He allowed the Confederates to keep their uniforms--as those were the only clothes they had. The men just had to remove all insignia of rank and cover their military buttons with patches of cloth.
Not long after the surrender ceremony, Lee asked Grant a favor. He asked that Grant's army give each of Lee's soldiers a parole, or pass, showing that they had surrendered honorably with Lee at Appomattox and could go home safely. Grant agreed and ordered 30,000 paroles to be printed in the Clover Hill Tavern and given to each man, allowing them free pass home, safe and unmolested. (In fact, the Union Army had its own printing presses and printers, and these men worked all day and night making these paroles to give out. You can see a copy of one of the paroles printed in 2015 at Appomattox and given to visitors.) Without those paroles, the Southern soldiers would have been in danger. While on the long trips to their homes, they could have been caught by Union (Northern) soldiers and arrested as Prisoners of War (POW). Or, they could have been caught by other Southerners and accused of being deserters and punished. Think about that. Since Grant was the winner and Lee was the loser, Grant did not owe Lee ANYTHING or any favors. But Grant was a man of honor, and President Lincoln had ordered Grant to "let them down easy," so he did Lee the favor. Grant also let the surrendered Southern soldiers take their horses home, since it was April and Grant wanted the men--mostly farmers--to go straight home and plant a crop for the summer to feed their families and communities. The South in 1865 was mainly a rural area, so it was necessary for the men to have horses to work their farms and grow food for the needy area.
When you study world history, it is RARE, if not unprecedented, that an armed rebellion would finally be crushed--and the winners showed the losers amazing clemency and grace. This is just one more example of the incredible role and influence of Christianity in U.S. history.
To show you how important Appomattox is in Virginia, here is a link of things to see in our state, A to Z, and Appomattox is listed first. Take a look!
Learn more: Scott's podcast about General Lee (posted, appropriately, on April 9.)
Scott's podcast about General Grant.
Scott's podcast about USA President Lincoln.
Scott's podcast about CSA President Davis.
Scott's video from the 2015 150th anniversary of the surrender at Appomattox, where he shows you the site where the paroles were printed--when General Grant suddenly appeared on the scene! Watch here.
A licensed teacher in the US state of Virginia since 1987, Scott Dreyer has been helping Chinese speakers improve their English since 1989. Dreyer lived in Taiwan from 1989-1999 where he learned Mandarin, met his wife, started his family, and realized he loved working with Chinese students. He became an award-winning author and started teaching ESL online in 2008. Dreyer and his wife and their four adult children make their home in the beautiful Roanoke Valley in the Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia.dreyercoaching.com/en/about/scott-dreyer
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