On April 9, 1865 Union General Ulysses S. Grant met with Confederate General Robert E. Lee to discuss the terms of surrender. This ended the Civil War. The formal surrender took place at the home of Wilmer McLean in his parlor.
General Robert Lee arrived first, dressed in an immaculate (perfect) grey uniform. General Lee waited for Grant to arrive. Grant arrived in a mud-spattered uniform, muddy boots, no gun, and with only his tarnished shoulder straps showing his rank. It was the first time the two men had seen each other face-to-face in almost two decades. Grant found it hard to get to the point of the meeting some say because he was overcome with sadness, not because the war had ended but because General Lee was such a well respected general who had been brought to defeat. The two generals briefly discussed their only previous encounter, during the Mexican-American War. It has been said that Grant remembered Lee but that Lee did not remember Grant. The terms of the surrender (to give up) were not harsh. General Grant did not take any prisoners; Confederate soldiers were allowed to go home if they promised not to fight anymore. They could keep their horses, if they had them, which they would need for the spring plowing and the Confederate Officers could keep their swords and weapons. Food was sent to General Lee’s starving men. As General Lee returned to his men, General Grant ordered his men not to cheer but to salute General Lee as he rode by. General Grant said, “The rebels are our countrymen again.”
Replicas of the tables used by Lee and Grant in the McLean house for the surrender documents. The originals are on display at the Smithsonian Museum in Washington DC.
The first battle of the Civil War took place on the farm of Wilmer McLean at Manassas, Virginia. Wanting to avoid the war, Wilmer McLean moved to Appomattox Court House, Virginia. Because the First Battle of Manassas took place on Wilmer McLean's farm and because the peace terms where signed in his house in Appomattox Court House, it can be said that the Civil War started in McLean's backyard and ended in his parlor.