HATTIESBURG, MS (WDAM) - General Robert E. Lee surrenders the Army of Northern Virginia to Lieutenant General Ulysses S. Grant at the McLean House near Appomattox Court House, effectively ending the Civil War.
After Grant's Overland campaign proved successful, the sieges of Petersburg and Richmond began. A series of cavalry successes by Major General Philip Sheridan made Lee's defensive position more and more untenable. The massive number of Federal troops gathered in around Richmond and Petersburg proved too many. Lee wanted to link up with Fightin' Joe Johnston's Army of Tennessee, but lack of supplies and Federal cavalry made any escape nearly impossible.
Lee sent a message to Grant on April 7th that Grant did not receive until the morning of April 9th. Lee was already on his way to meet Grant to discuss surrender when Grant read the message and replied, allowing him to choose the location of surrender. One of Lee's aides chose the house of Wilmer McLean in Appomattox.
Lee wore a uniform in nearly perfect condition to the meeting. Grant wore a disheveled, worn out and mud-stained coat. The two opposing generals discussed the last time they saw each other during the Mexican-American War. Finally Grant offered Lee his terms, which were very kind to the Confederacy: soldiers would surrender their firearms, officers could keep their sidearms, and soldiers could keep their horses so they could help with the spring planting of crops. Grant also gave the Army of Northern Virginia rations to feed its starving men, and promised that no Rebels would be bothered by the U.S. government as long as they observed the terms of surrender and local law.
Once Robert E. Lee surrendered, a series of surrenders in the rest of the Confederate armies followed over the next month. The McLean house was the beginning of the end of the Civil War.
Wilmer McLean famously opined after the surrender that "The war started in my front yard and ended in my front parlor." McLean had owned a farm in 1861 near Manassas that would see the Battle of First Bull Run, the first major engagement of the Civil War. To attempt to escape the fighting, McLean moved his family to Appomattox.
April 9th, 2015 marks the 150th anniversary of the end of the Civil War.