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Appomattox Court House, Virginia - April 9th 1865. by Keith Rocco
The meeting lasted approximately an hour and a half. When it was over, the Army of Northern Virginia had surrendered.
The guns have long since ceased to sound. The zest and fury of the time have gone. But the salient and polarizing force, ushered forth by a strong-willed and God-fearing people who pitted their strength and energy against each other, reflects the vanguard of pre-eminence by which this nation was built and thrives on today - shall not these memories live on?
W.K. Vardaman, Jr.

The War Between the States

As April 1865 neared, an exhausted Abraham Lincoln met with his two top generals, Ulysses S. Grant and William Tecumseh Sherman, to discuss the end of the Civil War, which finally seemed to be within reach. Nevertheless, the president - "having seen enough of the horrors of war" - remained deeply conflicted. To be sure, the endless sound of muddy boots tramping across City Point, Virginia, and the heavy ruts left by cannon wheels marked Grant's preparations for a final all-out push to ensnare the Army of Northern Virginia. Yet Lincoln could not shake off his deep-seated fears that Robert E. Lee would somehow escape Grant's clutches or, worse still, that his worn but still formidable forces would melt into the western mountains to continue the war indefinitely as marauding guerrilla bands. Nor was this idle speculation. Lee himself had once boasted that if he could get his army into the Blue Ridge Mountains, he could continue the war for another "20 years."

Grant himself shared Lincoln's foreboding, later confessing, "I was afraid every morning that I would awake from my sleep to hear that Lee had gone .. . and the war was prolonged." At one point during their final meeting at City Point, a morose Lincoln pleaded, "My God! Can't you spare more effusions of blood? We have had so much of it." Indeed, what most haunted him now was the belief that the war might end only after some final mass slaughter, or that it would dwindle into a long twilight of barbarism or mindless retaliation, as had happened in so many other civil wars, thus unleashing an endless cycle of more bloodshed and national division. To reunite the country, Lincoln believed the conflict's close must be marked by something profoundly different: a spirit of reconciliation.

But after four years of bloodletting, could it? Distressingly, on the fateful morning of April 9, 1865, the decision ironically seemed to be more in Lee's hands than in Lincoln's. When the first glimmer of sun broke around 5 a.m., Lee's vaunted army was at last surrounded, and the aging general now faced a decision that would forever shape the nation's history.

With gunfire still rattling in the distance, Lee convened a council of war. The talk turned to surrender, whereupon one of Lee's top aides protested that "a little more blood more or less now makes no difference." Instead he suggested that the Confederates play the trump card that Lincoln most dreaded and dissolve into the hills as guerrillas. As Lee carefully listened, he knew that this option was not lightly to be ignored. Just days earlier, the fleeing Confederate president, Jefferson Davis, had issued his own call for guerrilla struggle. And hundreds of Lee's men had already vanished into the countryside on their own initiative, anticipating precisely that.

Could Lee have done it? Here, surely, was temptation. No less than for Davis, the momentous step of surrender was anathema to him. Moreover, the South's long mountain ranges, endless swamps, and dark forests were well suited for a protracted partisan conflict. Its fighters, such as the cunning John Mosby and the hard-bitten cavalryman Nathan Bedford Forrest, not to mention young Confederates such as Jesse James, had already made life a festering hell for the Union forces with lightning hit-and-run raids. If Lee had resorted to guerrilla war, he arguably could have launched one of the most effective partisan movements in all history.

In fact, in Missouri a full-scale guerrilla war characterized by ruthless reprisals and random terror was already under way with such ferocity that the entire state had been dragged into a whirlpool of vengeance. As jurist and political philosopher Francis Lieber ominously told Lincoln, "Where these guerrillas flourish, [they create] a slaughter field."

In hindsight, we can see that in a countrywide guerrilla war, the nation would quickly have become mired in a nightmarish conflict without fronts, without boundaries between combatant and civilian, and without end. It could well have brought about the Vietnamization of America or, even more distressingly, its Iraqization, disfiguring this country for decades, if not for all time.

But after careful deliberation, Lee rejected the option of protracted anarchy and mayhem, insisting that "we would bring on a state of affairs that would take the country years to recover from." By this one momentous decision, he spared the United States generations of divisive violence, as well as the sepsis of malice and outrage that would have invariably delayed any true national reconciliation.

But if this were perhaps Lee's finest day, so too it was Grant's. At the surrender at Appomattox Courthouse, Grant, heeding Lincoln's injunction for a tender peace now that the war was close at hand, treated Lee's defeated army with extraordinary generosity, not as hated foes but as brothers to be embraced. The most poignant moment of this most poignant of days came after the instruments of surrender were signed, and an emotion-choked Lee mounted his horse Traveler and let out a long, deep sigh. In a brilliant masterstroke, Grant walked out onto the porch of the Wilmer McLean house and, in front of all his officers and men, silently raised his hat to the man who just that morning had been his ardent adversary, saluting him as an honored comrade - a gesture quickly echoed by innumerable other Union officers.

This one small act would loom large in the months to come, rippling out into every corner of the South and setting a tone for the healing that was so critical if the country were "to bind up" its wounds, as Lincoln so eloquently put it. And lest anyone mistake the importance of reconciliation for both sides, Lee would later remark: "I surrendered as much to Lincoln's goodness as I did to Grant's armies."


United States 1861
Red:
the federal, non-slaveholding states
Blue:
the border slaveholding states
Yellow:
the confederate states
Green:
Indian territory, or present day Oklahoma
Remainder:
U.S. territories

U.S. Census Population
In 1860 - 31,443,321
 Admission & Secession Dates Of
States At Time Of Civil War Period
Free and Slave StateAdmissionSeceded
 Free27,489,561 AlabamaDec 14, 1819Jan 11, 1861
 Slave3,953,760 ArkansasJun 15, 1836May 06, 1861
Cities Over 100,000 CaliforniaDec 09, 1850
 New York805,651 ConnecticutJan 09, 1788
 Philadelphia562,529 DelawareDec 07, 1787
 Baltimore212,418 FloridaMar 03, 1845Jan 10, 1861
 Boston177,812 GeorgiaJan 02, 1788Jan 19, 1861
 New Orleans168,675 IllinoisDec 03, 1818
 Cincinnati161,044 IndianaDec 11, 1816
 St. Louis160,773 IowaDec 28, 1846
 Chicago109,260 KansasJan 29, 1861
Cities Over 50,000 KentuckyJun 01, 1792
 Buffalo81,129 LouisianaApr 30, 1812Jan 26, 1861
 Newark71,914 MaineMar 15, 1820
 Louisville68,033 MarylandApr 28, 1788
 Albany62,367 MassachusettsFeb 06, 1788
 Washington61,122 MichiganJan 26, 1837
 San Francisco56,802 MinnesotaMay 11, 1858
 Providence50,666 MississippiDec 10, 1817Jan 09, 1861
Other MissouriAug 10, 1821
 Charleston40,578 New HampshireJun 21, 1788
 Richmond37,910 New JerseyDec 18, 1787
 Montgomery35,967 New YorkJul 26, 1788
 Mobile29,606 North CarolinaNov 21, 1789May 20, 1861
 Memphis22,623 OhioMar 01, 1803
 Savannah22,292 OregonJan 14, 1859
Horse Population PennsylvaniaDec 12, 1787
 Federal4,417,130 Rhode IslandMay 29, 1790
 Confederate1,698,338 South CarolinaMay 23, 1788Dec 20, 1860
Mule Population TennesseeJun 01, 1796Jun 08,1861
 Federal328,890 TexasDec 29, 1845Feb 01, 1861
 Confederate800,665 VermontMar 04, 1791
Working Oxen VirginiaJun 25, 1788Apr 17, 1861
 Federal856,645 West VirginiaJun 20, 1863
 Confederate1,382,430 WisconsinMay 29, 1848
*Size Of Armies*Size Of
Navies
*Total
Cost Of War
Army
Deaths
Total War
Federal1,550,000 to 2,300,000 132,554 $6,190,254,700 360,222623,026Deaths
Confederate800,000 to 1,600,0005,827$714,379,372258,000471,427
Wounded
*Estimate Only1,094,453Casualties

Before the start of the Civil War in 1861, almost four million slaves were living in the United States, and there were approximately 500,000 free African Americans. Altogether, they made up about 14 percent of the U.S. population.

Best Available Number Of Major And Minor Military Actions - 10,458

Total Union Prisoners Held In The South: Approximately 126,950, With The Prisoner Fatality At 22,576. Total Confederate Prisoners Held In The North: Approximately 220,000, The War Department Lists Prisoner Fatalities At 26,436.

The Civil War is estimated to have cost the union over $6 billion–that equates to nearly $150 billion today. Near the end of the war, the U.S. government was spending approximately $3.5 million per day, more than triple the government's expenditures in the years prior to the war.

These numbers do not necessarily take into account the cost of destroyed property, livestock and lost wages. The South was particularly hard-hit in these areas, since most of the fighting took place in the southern states.

When it came to available capital, the Union stood head and shoulders above the Confederacy. The South had about $74,000,000 available funds, while the Union had a staggering $234,000,000 in bank deposits and coined money.

Which General Was Better? The North's rough and rugged soldier, Ulysses S. Grant or the South's polished general, Robert E. Lee?

The question has intrigued historians and armchair strategists since the Civil War itself. Lee is usually accounted the superior commander. He scored outrageous victories against the Army of the Potomac up until Gettysburg 1863, fighting against superior numbers and better supplied troops. His victory at Chancellorsville, where he divided his army three times in the face of the enemy while being outnumbered three to one, is a master class in the use of speed and maneuver as a force multiplier. Lee also had the difficult task of implementing a strategy to win the war that required him to invade the northern states, which he did twice. He knew the South couldn't just sit back and hold what it had: the North was too strong and some sort of early end to the war had to be found, probably a negotiated peace after a shock Union defeat in Pennsylvania or Maryland. Lee also benefits from the cult of the “Marble Man” that arose after the War. With the southern ideology of the “Lost Cause” Lee, the heroic, self-sacrificing soldier, was romanticized as the exemplar of southern civilization. As such, Lee increasingly was seen as blameless or beyond reproach, which caused his mistakes or errors on the battlefield.

Conversely, Grant's military reputation suffers from his reputation as president, which historically is regarded as one of the worst administrations of all. Grant's haplessness as president has redounded to color his performance during the War. Grant's personal charisma was never as high as Lee's anyway; and he has been dogged by questions about his drinking. But taken on its own terms, Grant was an exceptional general of both theater commands, as in his seige of Vicksburg, and in command of all the Union armies when he came east. There was nothing romantic about Grant's battles: he committed to a plan and then followed it through with an almost uncanny stubborness. He saved the Battle of Shiloh after the Union line was shattered on the first day, reorganizing his forces and counterattacking. “Whip ‘em tomorrow, though” he remarked to Sherman at the end of an awful first day's fighting; and he did. His seige of Vicksburg was a remarkable campaign of combined operations with the “brown water” navy. And he was implacable in the final year of the war when he engaged Lee continuously from the Battle of the Wilderness to Appomatox.

I think that Grant slightly shades Lee as a commander because in the last year of the War he managed all of the Union armies, including Sherman in the South and Sheridan in the Shenendoah Valley. Grant served in the field, supervising Meade, who was still commander of the Army of the Potomac, but he had his eye on the entirety of the Union campaign. Moreover, Grant recognize the new reality of warfare: that the firepower commanded by each side was making a battle of maneuver, like Chancellorsville, impossible. Lee didn't think much of Grant as a general, saying that McClellan was the superior foe. On the other hand, Lee beat McClellan. He didn't beat Grant.



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