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Civil War Surrender Brings Life Not Retribution

After a long night and day of marching, Lee and the exhausted Army of Northern Virginia made camp just east of Appomattox Courthouse on April 8. Lieutenant General Ulysses S. Grant had sent him a letter on the night of April 7, following confrontations between their troops at Cumberland Church and Farmville, suggesting Lee surrender. The Southern general refused. Grant replied, again suggesting surrender to end the bloodshed. Lee responded, saying in part, "I do not think the emergency has arisen to call for the surrender of this army," though he offered to meet Grant at 10 the next morning between picket lines to discuss a peaceful outcome.

Having watched the battle through field glasses—Lee then said, "Then there is nothing left for me to do but go and see General Grant, and I would rather die a thousand deaths." But meeting General Grant at the Mclean house, Lee said "We are pressed and are ready to surrender. What are your terms?"

Surprisingly it wasn't judgment. It wasn't prison. It wasn't retribution … The terms were to stop fighting and to start living. Give up your weapons, go home and plant your fields. The soldiers who hadn't eaten in days were given meal rations, horses and mules to plow fields. The war was over but for many people, life had just begun.

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