In the afternoon on Palm Sunday, on this day in 1865, the bloodiest war on American Soil came to an end.
Arriving in his finest dress uniform, replete with a sash and sword, General Robert E. Lee entered to Appomattox Court House to await General Ulysses Grant. The Union general contrasted sharply with his former opponent in his muddy boots and worn uniform still baring the weary signs of battle.
The two generals met in the parlor of Wilmer McLean’s house. Coincidentally, it was the same house where the Civil War began four years before. In the front yard of the McLean house, one of the first shots of the war was fired; in his front parlor.
Lee asked for the terms of surrender. The two men had endured the horrors of two wars together (The Mexican-American War and the Civil War). Burdensome surrender terms would only further exasperate an already crippled country. The historical marker now located at McLean House sets the stage for the solemn day: “At midday on April 9, 1865, General Robert E. Lee rode into this yard, dismounted, and disappeared into the McLean House. Grant, surrounded by generals and staff officers, soon followed. Dozens of officers, horses, and onlookers waited outside. After 90 minutes, Lee and Grant emerged. To the silent salutes of Union officers, Lee rode back through the village – to his defeated army.”
As a celebratory band started playing victory music, Grant quieted them by saying, “the war is over. The rebels are our country men again.” Reconstruction was just beginning, but it would take many, many years before the nation was healed once more.