Battlefield Dispatches #418
Honor Answering Honor
Thursday, April 9, 2015 was the 150th Anniversary of what according to our history books was the end of our Civil War. It was on that day, April 9, 1865, that Union General U. S. Grant accepted the surrender of the Confederate Army of Northern Virginia from its’ commanding officer General Robert E. Lee in a small Virginia town named Appomattox Courthouse. Much has been written about the actual surrender so it will not be described here. However, what occurred on April 10th and 12th completed the surrender ceremony. On the 10th of April, General Robert E. Lee issued his final order that is considered to be a literary masterpiece to the soldiers of the Army of Northern Virginia which in reality was his farewell address and is as follows:
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 the result from no distrust of them.
But feeling that valor and devotion could accomplish nothing that would compensate for the loss that must have attended the continuance of the contest, I 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 increasing admiration of your constancy and devotion to your country and a grateful remembrance of your kind and generous considerations for myself, I bid you all an affectionate farewell.
General Robert E. Lee
Commanding Army of Northern Virginia
On April 12, 1865, three days after the surrender, “Union” General of the 20th Maine, recorded the final act of capitulation as the soldiers of the Army of Northern Virginia surrendered their weapons and battle flags. The following is an abbreviated description of this ceremonial surrender.
It is now the morning of the 12th of April and I had been ordered to have my lines formed for the ceremony at sunrise. It was a chill gray morning, depressing to the senses. We formed along the principal street, from the bluff bank of the stream to near the Court House on the left, to face the last line of battle and receive the last remnant of the arms and colors [flags] of the great army which ours had been created to confront for all that death can do for life.
Our earnest eyes scan the busy groups on the opposite slopes, breaking camp for the last time, taking down their little shelter tents and folding carefully as precious things, then slowly forming ranks as for unwelcome duty. And now they move. The dusky swarms forge forward into gray columns of march. On they come, with the old winging route step and swaying battle flags, crowded so thick, by thinning out of men, that the whole column seemed crowned with red.
Before us in proud humiliation stood the embodiment of manhood; men whom neither toils and sufferings, nor the fact of death nor disaster nor hopelessness could bend from their resolve; standing before us now, thin, worn, famished, but erect and with eyes looking level into ours, waking memories that bound us together as no other bond.
I ordered our soldiers to “order arms” in that deepest mark of military respect. [Confederate General] Gordon at the head of the column, riding with heavy spirit and downcast face, catching the sound of shifting arms looks up and taking the meaning, wheels superbly, making himself and his horse one uplifted figure, with profound salutation as he drops the point of his sword to the boot toe. Gordon ordered his men to respond in kind – “HONOR ANSWERING HONOR." On our part not a sound, but an awed stillness rather and breath holding, as if it were the passing of the dead.
As each successive division masks our own, it halts, the men face inward towards us across the road, twelve feet away; then carefully “dress their line”. They fix bayonets, stack arms and then hesitatingly, remove cartridge boxes and lay them down. Lastly, reluctantly, with agony of expression they tenderly fold their flags, battle worn and torn, blood stained, heart holding colors and lay them down.”
Now then, this official surrender at Appomattox Courthouse, Virginia on April 9, 1865 historically has been construed as the official end of our Civil War. However, here in the Trans-Mississippi Theater of Operations the war continued as the final battle of our Civil War was fought in Texas. This was the Battle of Palmito Ranch that occurred on May 12- 13, 1865 east of Brownsville, Texas which is located in extreme southern Texas and was a Confederate victory. The last Confederate General to surrender was Brigadier General Stand Watie who surrendered his forces at Doaksville, Indian Territory [present Oklahoma] on June 23, 1865.
However, In Missouri the blood feuds and bitterness that were created in the Civil War between southern and northern Missourians be they former soldiers or civilians continued well into the 1880’s and of Course the War Went On!