On this day in 1865, three days after the disaster at Sailor’s Creek, and one week to the day after the fall of Richmond, Robert E. Lee surrendered the Army of Northern Virginia to Ulysses S. Grant. Well, what he did was negotiate the terms of surrender. The actual surrender didn’t happen until three days later, by which time Lee was in Richmond and Grant in Washington. Regardless, the conventional wisdom is that each man handled himself magnificently and, as a nation, we have benefited from the grace of this moment. Our entry complicates this view:
But recent scholarship shows that the surrender at Appomattox did not inspire all citizens toward reconciliation. Some members of Confederate associations, such as the United Daughters of the Confederacy, argued vehemently in the twentieth century against the erecting of a peace monument at Appomattox. Some have suggested that the leniency of Grant’s terms anticipated, and in some ways encouraged, a more general northern leniency toward southern racism during and after Reconstruction (1865–1877), and with respect to the history of African Americans in the United States, the surrender at Appomattox began new conflicts even as it ended others.
Conflicts, for instance, like whether The Museum of the Confederacy ought to fly the Confederate battle flag over its new museum at Appomattox. The war never ends, does it?
ELSEWHERE: The historian Brooks Simpson is counting down to Appomattox.
TITLE QUOTATION: Speaking of flags, I’m gonna let my dork flag fly high on this one.
IMAGE: Lee and Grant meet at Appomattox, a version of which can be found here