Shortly after Robert E. Lee surrendered to Ulysses S. Grant, he prepared what some have regarded as his most important order – General Order No. 9 – in which he praises his troops and explains his reasons for surrendering, basically stating that the Confederacy was overwhelmed by the massive forces of the Union Army. Union soldiers were appalled as they believed the surrender was due to the strength of the northern cause.
Lee released this General Order, based on a draft by his military secretary Colonel Charles Marshall (1830-1902). After Lee reviewed Marshall’s draft and made some changes, clerks made several copies in ink for the corps commanders and other members of the army staff, all of which Lee signed. This facsimile is based on a copy signed by Lee and given to Brigadier General Walter H. Stevens (1827-1867), who served as chief engineer for the Army of Northern Virginia.
The Lakeside Press of Chicago, a subsidiary of R. R. Donnelley & Sons Company, reproduced precise facsimiles of historical documents as promotional pieces to demonstrate the quality of their printing capabilities, circa 1965.
This 8 x 12 ½ copy is attached to cardstock. Light wear to the page, but a very readable and precise copy.
The complete transcript reads:
Head Quarters, Army of No: Virginia
10th April 1865
General Order }
No. 9 }
After four years of arduous service marked by unsurpassed courage and fortitude the Army of Northern Virginia has been compelled to yield to overwhelming numbers and resources.
I need not tell the brave survivors of so many hard fought battles, who have remained steadfast to the last, that I have consented to this result from no distrust of them.
But feeling that valor and devotion could accomplish nothing that could compensate for the loss that must have attended the continuance of the contest I have determined to avoid the useless sacrifice of those whose past services have endeared them to their countrymen.
By the terms of the agreement Officers and men can return to their homes and remain until exchanged. You will take with you the satisfaction that proceeds from the consciousness of duty faithfully performed, and I earnestly pray that a merciful God will extend to you His blessing and protection.
With an unceasing admiration of your constancy and devotion to your Country and a grateful remembrance of your Kind and generous consideration for myself, I bid you an affectionate farewell.
R. E. Lee
Brig. Genl. W. H. Stevens
Chief Engr ANVa.
BACKGROUND: General Ulysses S. Grant’s forces cut the last supply lines to Petersburg and Richmond, Virginia, on April 1 and 2, 1865, forcing the Confederates to abandon both cities. The Confederate government fled west by train, while Robert E. Lee’s Army of Northern Virginia marched west, hoping to resupply and unite with Joseph E. Johnston’s army in North Carolina. Major General Philip H. Sheridan, commanding Grant’s cavalry with the V Corps in support, pursued Lee relentlessly.
On April 6, at Sayler’s Creek, Union cavalry isolated a corps of Confederate infantry under General Richard S. Ewell, capturing him, six other generals, and nearly 8,000 Confederate soldiers. At the end of the severe battle, Sheridan sent Colonel Redwood Price to Grant with a report of the battle. “Near midnight,” Sheridan recalled in his memoirs of a dispatch to Grant, “I wrote, ‘If the thing is pressed, I think that Lee will surrender.’”
During the night of April 6-7, General Grant was at Burkesville Station on the Southside Railroad, perhaps ten to twelve miles from Sheridan’s position. Grant immediately forwarded Sheridan’s message by telegraph to President Abraham Lincoln, who was waiting anxiously at Grant’s Headquarters at City Point, Virginia, fifty miles to the east. The next morning, at 11:00 a.m. on April 7, President Lincoln telegraphed General Grant, “Gen. Sheridan says ‘If the thing is pressed I think that Lee will surrender.’ Let the thing be pressed.” And press it, they did. The Army of the Potomac cut off Lee’s escape route to Lynchburg and destroyed more of his meager supplies.
Late in the afternoon of April 7, Grant sent a direct message asking General Robert E. Lee to acknowledge the “hopelessness of further resistance” and to surrender to avoid further bloodshed. Lee responded the same day that he did not agree that the position of the Army of Northern Virginia was hopeless but did ask “the terms you will offer on condition of its surrender.”
On April 8, Grant offered to meet Lee for “arranging definitely” the terms for Lee’s surrender. Later the same day, Lee replied that he “did not intend to propose the surrender of the Army of Northern Virginia, but to ask the terms of your proposition.” “To be frank,” Lee continued, “I do not think the emergency has arisen to call for the surrender of this army,” but he offered to meet Grant on the old stage road to Richmond the following morning at 10 a.m.
Later that day, Sheridan reported to Grant that he would move on Appomattox Court-House, concluding, “Should we not intercept the enemy and he be forced into Lynchburg his surrender then is beyond question.” At 9:20 p.m., Sheridan followed up by reporting that General George Armstrong Custer “made a dash” at Appomattox Station, capturing four supply trains, then pushed on toward Appomattox Court House. “If General Gibbon and the Fifth Corps can get up to-night,” Sheridan concluded, “we will perhaps finish this job in the morning. I do not think Lee means to surrender until compelled to do so.”
The following morning, April 9, Grant rejected Lee’s proposed meeting, as he had “no authority to treat on the subject of peace.” Lee followed with two brief notes, the first requesting an interview and the second “a suspension of hostilities pending the adjustment of the terms of the surrender of this army.” They met at Appomattox Court House at 3:00 p.m. to complete the surrender, and at 4:30 p.m., Grant telegraphed Secretary of War Edwin M. Stanton, “General Lee surrendered the Army of Northern Virginia this afternoon upon terms proposed by myself.”
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