Lt. General Ulysses S. Grant, general-in-chief of the Federal forces
"I can't spare this man. He fights!" That's how Abraham Lincoln once characterized his general in chief, U.S. Grant, who oversaw the operations of all Union forces in the Appomattox Campaign and whose dogged pursuit of Lee's troops after the fall of Richmond and Petersburg led to the surrender of the Army of Northern Virginia.
Hiram Ulysses Grant was the first child born to Jesse and Hannah Simpson Grant, on April 27, 1822. He grew up in rural Ohio and acquired a passion for horses and a talent for breaking and training them. It was an asset that served him well throughout his military career.
In 1839 Grant was nominated to the military academy at West Point as "Ulysses Simpson Grant"--Simpson being the maiden name of Grant's mother. The name was to follow him for this rest of his life.
In early April 1865, Grant's troops succeeded cutting off Lee's hopes for much needed supplies and in bringing the retreating armies of General Lee to bay throughout the area surrounding the small village of Appomattox Court House. A resigned Lee agreed to meet with Grant on April 9 at the home of local resident Wilmer McLean where treaty terms were reached. Proving to be as generous in victory as he had been relentless in battle, Grant issued more than 23,000 paroles allowing Confederate troops to return to their homes and farms with the horses they had brought into battle.
After the end of the Civil War Grant's reputation as a national hero propelled him into politics during the reconstruction period and in 1868 he was elected the eighteenth President of the United States and served two terms.
General Robert E. Lee, commander of the Confederate "Army of Northern Virginia"
Born on January 19, 1807 in Westmoreland County Virginia, Lee was the son of Anne Hill and Henry Lee, a distinguished cavalry officer during the American Revolution where he gained the nick-name "Light Horse Harry."
Lee graduated from the US Military Academy at West Point in 1829 and two years later married Mary Ann Randolph Custis, a direct descendent of Mary Washington. At the outbreak of the War with Mexico, Lee was assigned to the army under Generals John E. Wool and Winfield Scott and was wounded at the Battle of Chapultepec. Lee distinguished himself during the war and received several promotions in rank after the war ended. In the decade that followed, he briefly served as superintendent of West Point and accepted a command in the 2nd US Cavalry. It was by chance that Lee was in Washington in 1859 when the violent abolitionist John Brown raided the United States Arsenal at Harpers Ferry. Placed in command of Federal troops sent to recapture the arsenal, Lee
Lee declined an offer to command the Union Army at the outbreak of the Civil War and offered his services to his native state. After serving in several administrative and field positions, he was assigned to command the Confederate Army at Richmond, which he named the "Army of Northern Virginia." Under his command this army exploited Union mismanagement on numerous battlefields, making Lee one of the most victorious commanders for the South. By late January 1865 he had been made general in chief of all armies in the, by then, failing Confederacy.
After nine months of being under siege at Petersburg and Richmond, Lee was compelled to abandon these positions and recommend the government’s evacuation of their capitol. Thus began the march west in an attempt to re-supply and save the Confederate armies, and in hopes of joining with Johnston’s forces in the Carolinas. Warfare became a matter of rapid movements with Lee retreating and Grant’s armies aggressively pursuing. The culmination of the campaign occurred on April 9 in the small village of Appomattox Court House where Lee, realizing the inevitable, agreed to meet Grant to discuss terms of a surrender of the Army of Northern Virginia.
Did You Know?
The formal copy of Grant's surrender terms was scribed by Ely Parker, a Seneca Indian. Lee remarked to Parker, “I am glad to see one real American here.” Parker later stated, “I shook his hand and said, We are all Americans.” Parker's library is in the Appomattox Court House NHP collection.