Special Exhibits

Appomattox 150th Exhibit

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News Release Date: April 8, 2015

Contact: Mike Litterst, 202-306-4166

Appomattox, Va. – Appomattox marks the culmination of four years of bloody civil war, a return to peace and the reunification of the Nation. Artifacts associated with the surrender at Appomattox are part of a special exhibit at Appomattox Court House National Historical Park as part of the 150th anniversary commemoration. New objects on display include General Robert E. Lee's copy of Grant's April 9, 1865 surrender terms;a flag which draped President Lincoln's coffin onApril 23;Major General Phillip H. Sheridan's headquarters flag;Major General George Armstrong Custer's Headquarters flag;fragments of Lee's headquarters flag, which was cut up and carried home from Appomattox by staff;the 9th Virginia Cavalry flag which was smuggled from Appomattox by the regimental color bearer;and an inkwell carried from Wilmer McLean's parlor, scene of the surrender negotiations, as a souvenir of the historic meeting by General Sheridan's brother Captain Michael Sheridan. Much of the funding for the special exhibit was made possible by support from the Appomattox 1865 Foundation.

Robert E. Lee's Copy of the Surrender Terms
Lee's copy of the surrender terms is on loan from Stratford Hall, Lee's birthplace, where it was donated in 1955 by Charles Marshall, the son of Lee's Aide de Camp Lt. Colonel Charles Marshall. The terms were penned by General Grant's secretary, Lt. Colonel Ely Parker, a Seneca Chief. Grant had written out a rough draft of the terms himself, in his order book, a Phillips and Solomon Manifold writer, now in the Sheide Library at Princeton University, prior to having Parker make the final copy. Colonel Michael Morgan, Grant's Chief of Commissary, stated that Grant sat at a small oval top table, "wrote a line or two, paused to puff on his cigar, and wrote another line or two."  The terms that Grant penned in the parlor of the McLean home began a healing process that would reunite the Nation. After Lincoln's Assassination, one simple line: "each officer and man will be allowed to return to their homes not to be disturbed by United States authority so long as they observe their paroles and the laws in force where they may reside," would later prevent Lee from being tried for Treason, and proved to be a godsend for the Country.  

Flag from Abraham Lincolns' Coffin
OnApril 23rd, a small flag was placed briefly upon the assassinated president's casket while it lay in state at Independence Hall in Philadelphia, Pa. The flag was placed at the request of Mrs. Caughlin by a member of the honor guard. Just a few days earlier, Lincoln had enjoyed hearing an eyewitness account of the meeting between Lee and Grant at Appomattox, from the newest member of General Grant's staff. He was 21-year-old Captain Robert Todd Lincoln, whose mother had begged him not to join the army. His father had secured him a place upon the staff of the commanding general just two months earlier. The day after witnessing the surrender meeting, Robert left Appomattox with General Grant and arrived at the Whitehouse in time to have breakfast with his father on the morning ofApril 14th. It is easy to imagine President Lincoln asking his son to recount the details of the meeting, of Lee's appearance, and of the mood of the troops –on both sides. Just hours later, the jubilant President would be shot in the back of the head at Ford's Theater, plunging the Nation back into uncertainty. The flag is on loan courtesy of the Zaricor Flag Collection.

Major General Phillip H. Sheridan's Headquarters Flag
Accompanying Sheridan's flag is a letter written by the general to his niece just nine days after Appomattox: 

"Petersburg April 18 1865 
My Dear Miss Sallie
Thank you for your last kind note. Since I last wrote you I have added five handsome victories to my little two Star battle flag. I have fought under it now over forty battles and have always been successful. In these late battles I believe I have closed the war, the Rebels say so.  …"

Sheridan's use of fast moving cavalry forces to disrupt the Confederate retreat and supplies has been referred to as brilliant, and often cited for dramatically shortening the war. On April 6 at Sailor's Creek, pressing ahead of the Federal infantry, General Sheridan's troopers successfully slowed the Confederate retreat allowing the Second and Sixth Corps to catch up and inflict a major loss on the Army of Northern Virginia. As a result, close to a fifth of Lee's army was killed, wounded, or captured. Following the fight, Sheridan sent a telegram to Grant stating, "If the thing is pressed I think that Lee will surrender.'' Monitoring the telegraph lines, from City Point, Virginia, President Lincoln responded, "Let the thing be pressed. A. LINCOLN."  General Grant later wrote of Sheridan, "I believe General Sheridan has no superior as a general, either living or dead, and perhaps not an equal."

Major General George Armstrong Custer's Headquarters Flag
At the battle of Appomattox Station on the evening of April 8, 1865, Private William H. Beebe of Co. G, 3rd New Jersey Cavalry witnessed General George A. Custer with the Division flag.  "It seems to me I can now see him with his long light hair at the head of his division … the night before Lee's surrender, when the 3rd New Jersey and the 2nd Michigan [Ohio], after capturing three trains of cars at Appomattox Station, crossed over the railroad track and charged down the narrow road with heavy timber on either side which opened into a great field. The reception we met was a terrible one for it seemed to me there must have been all of the Rebel artillery drawn up at the opposite side of the field. They opened on us, and threw us into confusion and we at once fell back in the wood.  Not being satisfied with the onslaught, General Custer, with his division flag in his right hand, and his staff behind him, charged down this road to the opening and on to the field, he thinking his command would follow.  …. The fire was so great nothing could stand it.  …I well remember how I wondered how our brave commander could take such desperate chance of being killed, but it was not to be."  It took four desperate charges to break the Confederate reserve artillery, but resulted in blocking Lee's retreat to the west.

The Custer and Sheridan flags are on loan courtesy of the families of those two men. Custer's 3rd Division flag is accompanied by several additional items including a piece of his famous red necktie, a piece of the first flag of truce, a section of the drawer from the table Grant used to write the terms, and artifacts associated with Colonel George Briggs, who met the first flag as it came into the Federal line.

9th Virginia Cavalry Flag
At Appomattox 150 years ago, on the morning of April 9, in a desperate assault, the 9th and 14th Virginia Cavalry, along with Roberts' North Carolina Brigade, attacked Lord's battery of Federal artillery posted near the junction of the Richmond –Lynchburg Stage Road and the Oakville Road –just west of the village. The battery was posted on open ground just in front of a tree line and was supported by dismounted Federal cavalry behind a low breastwork of logs and fence rails. The Confederate charge was successful and resulted in the capture of the Federal artillery. The color bearer of the 14th Virginia, James Wilson, was mortally wounded just as he planted the regimental colors among the Federal guns. Within an hour of James Wilson's death flags of truce appeared upon the field. After the fighting ceased, color bearer Sergeant Walter Scott Callis cut the flag of the 9th Virginia Cavalry from its' staff and wrapped it around his body beneath his uniform rather than surrender it. A September 1884 article in the Richmond Times-Dispatch covering a veteran's parade made note that, "The flag of the old Ninth Virginia Cavalry was carried by Color-Sergeant Walter S. Callis, who concealed it on his person and brought it from Appomattox."

The flag of the 9th Virginia Cavalry is on loan courtesy of Mr. John Peter Beckendorf.  

Last updated: April 8, 2015

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