Behind the scenes at Pamplin: News of surrender
After an eleven day campaign and a morning battle at Appomattox Court House, Confederate General Robert E. Lee surrendered the Army of Northern Virginia on April 9, 1865. Lee had lost more than half of his forces, originally numbering about 60,000 men, in the fighting retreat from Petersburg and the earlier losses at the battle of Five Forks. The weary rebels had hoped to escape the reach of Union General U. S. Grant by marching to re-supply and eventually join forces with Maj. Gen. Joseph E. Johnston’s army in North Carolina. After the morning battle at Appomattox Court House, it was apparent to Lee that his forces could not break through the Union lines as he stated, “there is nothing left me to do but to go and see Gen. Grant, and I would rather die a thousand deaths.”
Lee and Grant met at the McLean House around 1:30 p.m. in the afternoon accompanied by a small group of officers. After some pleasantries, both men sat down to negotiate the terms of surrender. Grant offered favorable terms and even fed the rebels after days of marching and fighting with little in the way of rations. Lee was thankful for the lenient terms and put to rest any thoughts of a prolonged guerrilla war that could have gone on for years. Some of Lee’s officers had suggested plans to continue the fight in a guerrilla style war that Lee rejected in his last counsel of war on April 8.
Despite Lee’s surrender of the Army of Northern Virginia at Appomattox, this did not end the war. The Army of Tennessee under Maj. Gen. Joseph E. Johnston continued to fight in the field for over two weeks until their eventual surrender of around 90,000 men on April 26. Even still, the last large Confederate military formation under Gen. E. K. Smith in Galveston, Texas was forced to surrender on June 2, which finally allowed the country a rest from years of war.
All of these dramatic events were captured by newspapers at the time. The April 9 surrender in particular was captured by The Richmond Whig in their April 10, 1865 edition. This newspaper was founded in Richmond, Virginia in 1843 and was one of four daily newspapers in that city to remain loyal to the Whig Party. President Zachary Taylor and Winfield Scott are two notable Virginia natives who were Whig Party members and Taylor was the last Whig Party member to be a U.S. president. By the time of secession though, the Whig Party had fractured and was a shadow of its former self. The Richmond Whig remained critical of Confederate President Jefferson Davis throughout the Civil War due to a perceived mistrust of Whigs by the Confederacy. This partly can be contributed to the fact that Whigs were known for their siding with abolitionists against slavery and resistance to secession. The Richmond Whig would muddle through post-war Reconstruction and print its final edition in 1888.
The Richmond Whig was a daily newspaper published from 1843 through 1888. This April 10, 1865 edition features the surrender at Appomattox Court House the previous day.