“What General [Robert E.] Lee’s feelings were I do not know. As he was a man of much dignity, with an impassible face, it was impossible to say whether he felt inwardly glad that the end had finally come, or felt sad over the result, and was too manly to show it. Whatever his feelings, they were entirely concealed from my observation; but my own feelings, which had been quite jubilant on the receipt of his letter, were sad and depressed. I felt like anything rather than rejoicing at the downfall of a foe who had fought so long and valiantly, and had suffered so much for a cause, though that cause was, I believe, one of the worst for which a people ever fought, and one for which there was the least excuse. I do not question, however, the sincerity of the great mass of those who were opposed to us.”— Ulysses S. Grant, Personal Memoirs (1885–86)
Because of the deep, shared humanity of the commanding officers who met at Appomattox, the Civil War ended, certainly better than it began, 150 years ago today.
Lee’s Army of Northern Virginia had been bled white, arguably, since Gettysburg, but his situation was imperiled immeasurably, in the 10 days before Appomattox, by a subordinate who played a crucial role in the earlier battle. This prior post of mine discusses how the foolhardy conduct of General George Pickett at the Battle of Five Forks made inevitable Lee’s subsequent surrender.