views updated May 23 2018


APPOMATTOX, former courthouse (county seat) of the county of the same name in Virginia, twenty miles east southeast of Lynchburg, and scene of the surrender of the Confederate Army of Northern Virginia to the Union Army of the Potomac on 9 April 1865. General Robert E. Lee, retreating from Petersburg and Richmond, Virginia, on the night of 2–3 April, planned to withdraw into North Carolina via Danville. However, the Federal troops across his front at Jetersville forced him westward to Farmville, where he hoped to procure rations for a march to Lynchburg. En route to Farmville, Lee came under heavy attack. On 6 April, at Sayler's Creek, he lost about six thousand men. By the time Lee reached Appomattox Courthouse on 8 April, long marches without food had depleted the Confederate ranks to two small corps. That night, the reflections of Federal campfires against the clouds showed that the surviving Confederates were surrounded on three sides. To continue fighting, Lee reasoned, would only carry a hopeless struggle into country that had escaped the ravages of war.

On 9 April, at about 1:00 p.m., Lee rode into the village and, at the house of Major Wilmer McLean, formally arranged the surrender of all forces then under arms in Virginia. When on 12 April the troops marched into an open field to lay down their weapons and their flags, the Federal guard presented arms. At Appomattox 7,892 Confederate infantrymen surrendered with arms in their hands. The total number of troops paroled was about 28,000. Union general Ulysses S. Grant tried to get the Confederate commander to advise all the remaining Confederate troops to cease resistance, but Lee insisted that this was a decision for the civil authorities. Appomattox became a national historic site in 1954.


Davis, Burke. To Appomattox: Nine April Days, 1865. New York: Rinehart, 1959.

Hattaway, Herman, and Archer Jones. How the North Won. Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1983.

Wheeler, Richard. Witness to Appomattox. New York: Harper and Row, 1989.

Douglas SouthallFreeman/a. r.

See alsoPetersburg, Siege of ; Virginia, Army of Northern .


views updated May 17 2018

Appomattox the court house at Appomattox, Virginia, was the site on 9 April 1865 of the end of the American Civil War, with the formal surrender of the Confederate forces.