[pg. 13] NEWS NOTES *** Bell I. Wiley, Professor of History at Emory University, has been appointed Harmsworth Professor in American History at Oxford University for 1965-1966. Wiley is a member of the editorial board of the Grant Association, as is Allan Nevins, the current Harmsworth Professor. *** President Lyndon Johnson commemorated Lincoln’s birthday with a luncheon at the White House. A sizeable Grant delegation was headed by Major General Ulysses S. Grant 3rd. Those from the Grant Association included Bruce Catton, Carl Haverlin, David C. Mearns, Ralph G. Newman, James I. Robertson, Clyde C. Walton, Harold M. Hyman, Bell I. Wiley, T, Harry Williams, and John Y. Simon. Some one hundred guests heard a thoughtful address by the President in the East Room, adjourned to luncheon in the State Dining Room, visited the Lincoln Room with Mrs. Johnson as guide, and accompanied the President to a wreath-laying ceremony at the Lincoln Memorial. *** The final Assembly sponsored by the U. S. Civil War Centennial Commission will be held May 1-May 4 in Springfield, Illinois. Information on the meeting and a full program can be obtained from the Illinois Civil War Centennial Commission, Centennial Building, Springfield, Illinois. *** George R. Jones of Chicago is the author of a recently published biography of his grandfather, Joseph Russell Jones. Based on manuscripts and scrapbooks still in the possession of the family, as well as considerable [pg. 14] additional material in the Library of Congress, Chicago Historical Society, and elsewhere, this is the first biography of a major figure in the Grant story. At the outbreak of the Civil War, Jones was a leading Republican of Galena, Illinois. Lincoln appointed him United States Marshal for the Northern District of Illinois. During the Civil War be worked to advance the military and personal fortunes of General Grant, who later appointed him Minister to Belgium. Working with the editorial assistance of Richard Penn Hartung, George Jones has probed deeply into a complex career. Copies of a handsome paperbound edition of the 93-page book at $2.00, and a few hardbound copies at $4.00 are available from the Galena Historical Society, Galena, Illinois.
GRANT AT THE RANDOLPH HOUSE *** About noon on April 7, 1865, General Grant and his staff arrived in Farmville, Virginia. The Union army had been pressing the Confederates closely ever since the evacuation of Richmond and Petersburg give days earlier. Grant spent the night in a room in the Randolph House which he was told (probably incorrectly) was used by Lee the night before.
Last spring a group headed by Joseph E. Wood of Farmville was renovating the Randolph House (later called the Prince Edward Hotel) for centennial observances, when the structure collapsed. A committee called Randolph Rouse, Inc. has been established which will place a stone marker on the site of the hotel. The committee has published an extensively illustrated 42-page booklet, From Sayler’s Creek to Appomattox, written by Scott Hart, of Washington, who was born and raised in Farmville and was formerly on the staff of the U.S. Civil War Centennial Commission. Copies are available for $1.35 from Randolph House, Inc., P.O. Box 528, Farmville, Virginia.
A little before noon on April 7, 1865, General Grant, with his staff, rode into the little village of Farmville, on the south side of the Appomattox River, a town that will be memorable in history as the place where he opened the correspondence with Lee which, two days later, led to the surrender of the Army of Northern Virginia. He drew up in front of the village hotel, a comfortable brick building, dismounted, and established headquarters on its broad piazza. News come in that Crook was fighting large odds with his cavalry on the north side of the river, and I was directed to go to his front and see what was necessary to be done to assist him. I found that he was being driven back, the enemy (Munford’s and Rosser’s cavalry divisions under Fitzhugh Lee) having made a bold stand north of the river. Humphreys was also on the north side, isolated from the rest of our infantry, confronted by a large portion of Lee’s army, and having some heavy fighting. On my return to general headquarters that evening, Wright’s corps was ordered to cross the river and move rapidly to the support of our troops there. Notwithstanding their long march that day, the men sprang to their feet with a spirit that made every one marvel at their pluck, and come swinging through the main street of the village with a step that seemed as elastic as one the first day of their toilsome tramp. It was now dark, but they spied the general-in-chief watching them with evident pride from the piazza of the hotel as they marched past. Then was witnessed one of the most inspiring scenes of the campaign. Bonfires were lighted on the sides of the street; the men seized straw and pine-knots, and improvised torches; cheers arose from their throats, already hoarse with shouts of victory; bands played, banners waved, and muskets were swung in the air. A regiment now broke forth with the song of “John Brown’s body,” and soon a whole division was shouting the swelling chorus of that popular air, which had risen to the dignity of a national anthem. The night march had become a grand review, with Grant as the reviewing officer.Ord and Gibbon had visited the general at the hotel, and he had spoken with them, as well as with Wright, about sending some communication to Lee that might pave the way to the stopping of further bloodshed. Dr. Smith, formerly of the regular army, a native of Virginia, and a relative of General Ewell, now one of our prisoners, had told General Grant the night before that Ewell had said in conversation that their cause was lost when they crossed the James River, and he considered that it was the duty of the authorities to negotiate for peace then, while they still had a right to claim concessions, adding that now they were not in condition to claim anything. He said that for every man killed after this somebody would be responsible, and it would be little better than murder. He could not tell what General Lee would do, but he hoped that he would at once surrender his army. This statement, together with the news that had been received from Sheridan, saying that he had heard that General Lee’s trains of provisions, which had come by rail, were at Appomattox, and that he expected to capture them before Lee could reach them, induced the general to write the following communication:
HEADQUARTERS, ARMIES OF THE U.S.
5 P.M., April 7, 1865
General R. E. Lee, Commanding C.S.A.:The results of the last week must convince you of the hopelessness [pg. 16] of further resistance on the part of the Army of Northern Virginia on this struggle. I feel that it is so, and regard it as my duty to shift from myself the responsibility of any further effusion of blood by asking of you the surrender of that portion of the Confederate States army known as the Army of Northern Virginia.
U. S. GRANT
This he intrusted to General Seth Williams, adjutant-general, with directions to take it to Humphrey’s front, as his corps was close up to the enemy’s rear-guard, and see that it reached Lee. William’s orderly was shot, and he himself came near losing his life in getting this communication through the lines. General Grant decided to remain all night at Farmville and await the reply from Lee, and he was shown to a room in the hotel in which he was told that Lee had slept the night before, although this statement could not be verified. Lee wrote the following reply within an hour after he received General Grant’s letter, but it was brought in by a rather circuitous route, and did not reach its destination till after midnight:
April 7, 1865GENERAL: I have received your note of this date. Though not entertaining the opinion you express of the hopelessness of further resistance on the part of the Army of Northern Virginia, I reciprocate your desire to avoid useless effusion of blood, and therefore, before considering your proposition, ask the terms you will offer on condition of its surrender.
LIEUTENANT-GENERAL U.S. GRANT,
Commanding Armies of the U.S.
The next morning, before leaving Farmville, the following reply was given to General Seth Williams, who again went to Humphrey’s front to have it transmitted to Lee:
April 8, 1865
GENERAL R. E. LEE, Commanding C. S. A.:Your note of last evening, in reply to mine of the same date, asking the conditions on which I will accept the surrender of the Army of Northern Virginia, is just received. In reply would say that, peace being my great desire, there is but one condition I would insist upon–namely, that the men and officers surrendered shall be disqualified for taking up arms against the Government of the United States until properly exchanged. I will meet you, or will designate officers to meet any officers you may name for the some purpose, at any point agreeable to you, for the purpose of arranging definitely the terms upon which the surrender of the Army of Northern Virginia will be received.
The last sentence shows great delicacy of feeling on the part of General Grant, who wished to spare General Lee the mortification of personally conducting the surrender. The consideration displayed has a parallel in the terms accorded by Washington to Cornwallis at Yorktown. Cornwallis took advantage of the privilege, and sent O’Hara to represent him; but Lee rose superior to the British general, and in a manly way came and conducted the surrender in person.
[pg. 17] There turned up at this time a rather hungry-looking gentleman in gray, wearing the uniform of a colonel, who proclaimed himself the proprietor of the hotel. He gave us to understand that his regiment had crumbled to pieces; that he was about the only portion of it that had succeeded in holding together, and he thought he might as well “stop off” at home and look after his property. It is safe to say that his hotel had never before had so many guests in it, nor at such reduced rates. His story was significant as indicating the disintegrating process which was going on in the ranks of the enemy.
WHAT HIS ENEMIES SAID OF GRANT *** This is the fourth installment of comments on his grandfather gathered by Major General Ulysses S. Grant 3rd.
On May 30, 1892, Colonel Charles Marshall, the single staff officer General Lee took with him to the surrender and the only Confederate officer who was an eye-witness of the historical conference in the McLean house, said, in a prepared speech:
The day after the meeting at McLean’s House, at which the terms of surrender had been agreed upon, another interview took place between General Grant and General Lee upon the invitation of General Grant…. The conversation turned on the subject of a general peace, as to which General Grant had already declared the want of power to treat, but in speaking of the means by which a general pacification might be effected General Grant said to General Lee, with great emphasis and strong feeling: “General Lee I want this war to end without the shedding of another drop of American blood.” Not “Northern” blood, not “Southern” blood, but “American” blood, for in his eyes all the men around him and all those who might be then confronting each other on other fields over the wide area of war were “Americans.”On that eventful morning of April 9th, 1865, General Grant was called upon to decide the most momentous question that any American soldier or statesman has ever been required to decide.
The great question was: How shall the war end? What shall be the relations between the victors and the vanquished? Upon the decision of that question depended, as I believe, the future of American institutions.
If the extreme rights of military success had been insisted upon, and had the vanquished been required to pass under the yoke of defeat and bitter humiliation, the war would have ended as a successful war of conquest–the Southern States would have been conquered states, and the Southern people would have been a conquered people, in whose hearts would have been sown all: the enmity and ill-will of the conquered to the conquerors, to be transmitted from sire to son.
With such an ending of the war there would have been United States without an united people….
Southern military power was exhausted. He was in a position to exact the supreme rights of a conqueror and the unconditional submission of his adversary unless that adversary should elect to risk all on the event of a desperate battle, in which much “American” blood would certainly be shed.
[pg. 18] I will say here that the question was gravely considered in Confederate Councils, whether we should not accept the extreme risk and cut our way through the hosts of General Grant or perish in the attempt.
This plan had many advocates, but General Lee was not one of them, as will be seen by his farewell order to his army.
Under such circumstances General Lee and General Grant met to discuss the terms of the surrender of General Lee’s army, and at the request of General Lee, General Grant wrote the terms of surrender he proposed to offer to the Confederate General. They were liberal and honorable alike to the victor and the vanquished, and General Lee at once accepted them. Any one who reads General Grant’s proposal cannot fail to see how careful he is to avoid unnecessary humiliation to his adversary. As far as it was possible, General Grant took away the sting of defeat from the Confederate army. He triumphed, but he triumphed without exultation, and with a noble respect to his enemy.
There was never a nobler knight than the Grant of Appomattox–no knight more magnanimous or more generous. No statesman ever decided a vital question more wisely, more in the interest of his country and of all mankind than General Grant decided the great question presented to him when he and General Lee met that morning of April 9, 1865, to consider the terms of the surrender of the Army of Northern Virginia.
The words of his magnanimous proposal to his enemy were carried’ by the Confederate soldiers to the farthest borders of the South. They reached ears and hearts that had never quailed at the sound of war. They disarmed and reconciled those who knew not fear, and the noble words of General Grant’s offer of peace brought peace without humiliation, peace with honor.
General Grant 3rd himself contributes this account–
Many years ago, about 1926, a very gentle, charming old lady called at my office in the Navy Building. She said she was from Mississippi and wished before she died to tell same member of our family her experience with General Grant. During the Vicksburg campaign, when she was still a young girl, he had occupied the first floor of her family’s home for a few days, the family being left entire use of the upper floors and kitchen. One day she had been coming through the hall with a tray of food, when unexpectedly and much to her terror, she met the Union General in the hall with all escape cut off. He had rather insistently asked her what the tray was for and, trembling, she had to admit that it was for her brother, and that he was a Confederate officer who had been wounded and had come home to recover. The family had been hiding him in the cellar and had suffered tortures of fear lest he be discovered, not knowing what his fate might be. She was greatly surprised to have the General immediately arrange for him to be carried upstairs and treated by the Headquarters surgeon. They had all felt the greatest gratitude and relief at such kindness and consideration, and being 83 years old she had become very worried for fear that she would pass away without a chance to tell some member of his family what a grand and generous foe General Grant was.