Confederate General Lee knew he was beaten. He knew he couldn’t fight against General Grant and the Union Army any more. He knew he had to surrender.
Lee knew it was over. . . Shortly before noon, April 9, 1865, Lee dispatched a white flag along with a note, into the Union lines. General Grant accepted the note and knew the Union Army had won the Civil War.
The two generals agreed to meet at the home of Wilmer McLean. The two men shook hands. . .The terms Grant offered were simple. Confederate officers could keep their hand guns; officers and men could keep their horses and ‘each officer and man will be allowed to return to his home, not to be arrested by the United States authorities.’
“Grant asked how many men Lee had and if they needed food. . .Lee was sure they were all hungry and General Grant gave them food. “This will have the best possible effect upon my men,” Lee said. “It will help the southern army to try and be friendly to the north.”
Because they had won the war, the Union soldiers began to cheer but General Grant ordered them to stop: He did not want to humiliate the southern soldiers. He wanted them to know that even though they lost the Civil War, they were still Americans.
General Lee and the southern army surrendered on April 12, 1865. They were led by General John B. Gordon. [He] led twenty thousand men toward the Union lines for the last time, not to fight anymore but to stack their rifles and surrender.
Major General Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain of the Union Army watched. He admired these southern soldiers and wrote:
On they come, . . .Before us in proud humiliation, the very best men. . now thin, worn and hungry, but erect and with eyes looking level into ours. We felt sorry for these men, our countrymen, who have fought for so long. We did not want to insult them. We did not play trumpets or drums, or cheer.
Confederate General Gordon stopped his horse beside the Union commander. As he did so, Union General Chamberlain called his men into line and the southern soldiers marched in front of them, Union soldiers pulled their rifles back to their soldiers, showing respect from Americans to Americans.”
“At the sound of that machine-like snap of arms,” Chamberlain remembered, “General Gordon started. . .turned his horse, facing me, . . .horse and rider made one motion, the horse’s head swung down with a bow, and General Gordon dropped his sword-point to his toe in a salute.”
(The Civil War P. 378, 382)