This Day in History

April 9, 1865, was an important day in American history. On this day, Confederate General Robert E. Lee surrendered his troops to the commander of the Union army, General Ulysses S. Grant. This day marked the end of the American Civil War. Lee and his troops surrendered Richmond, Virginia, the Confederate capital, to Grant's army.

Lees Troops Were Starving

Lee's food-starved troops had just retreated from the Union's successful Appomattox Campaign. During their retreat, Union cavalry forces blocked Lee's retreat and took 6,000 of his troops prisoner at Sayler's Creek. More and more members of Lee's army began to desert. By April 8, his army had been surrounded and escape was impossible. Lee sent his fateful message to Grant on April 9, announcing his surrender. At 1 p.m., the two powerful men met for an historic meeting in which they discussed the terms of Lee's surrender.

Grant and Lee had actually known each other while fighting on the same side in the Mexican War. They were also known to have a certain professional respect for one another. Grant was muddy in his his dirty field uniform when he arrived. Meanwhile, General Lee was in his pristine formal military atire, even wearing his sword. The terms of the surrender included the pardoning of Lee, his officers and his army. They were also granted safe passage home with their private property, and they were allowed to keep their horses. Further, officers were permitted to keep their personal firearms. Lastly, Lee's hungry troops were to be fed with Union rations.

Union Band Prevented from Playing in Celebration

The terms that the two generals agreed to were respectful, and they honored the fact that both were Americans, and although civil war had driven them apart, they had a common bond. A Union band began to play in celebration of its victory, but General Grant nobly quieted them. He announced that the war was over and that the rebels were their countrymen once again. Some resistance persisted, but for all intents and purposes the Civil War was over.