Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Lee's Surrender & chat with General Meade

While again looking through the Project Gutenberg website, I found the following about General Robert E. Lee's surrender at Appomattox, written by one of his sons. Some rang familiar. Some I think we should never fail to re-read. The last segment revealed a surprisingly lighthearted interaction.

Recollections and Letters of General Lee
by Captain Robert E. Lee, His Son

"It is impossible to describe the anguish of the troops when it was known that the surrender of the army was inevitable. Of all their trials, this was the greatest and hardest to endure. There was no consciousness of shame; each heart could boast with honest pride that its duty had been done to the end, and that still unsullied remained its honour. When, after this interview with General Grant, General Lee again appeared, a shout of welcome instinctively went up from the army. But instantly recollecting the sad occasion that brought him before them, their shouts sank into silence, every hat was raised, and the bronzed faces of thousands of grim warriors were bathed in tears. As he rode slowly along the lines, hundreds of his devoted veterans pressed around the noble chief, trying to take his hand, touch his person, or even lay their hands upon his horse, thus exhibiting for him their great affection. The General then with head bare, and tears flowing freely down his manly cheeks, bade adieu to the army."

In a few words: "Men, we have fought through the war together; I have done my best for you; my heart is too full to say more," he bade them good-bye and told them to return to their homes and become good citizens. The next day he issued his farewell address, the last order published to the army:

"Headquarters, Army of Northern Virginia, April 10, 1865.

"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 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 valour and devotion could accomplish nothing that could compensate for the loss that would have attended the continuation 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 there 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 consideration of myself, I bid you an affectionate farewell.

R. E. Lee, General."

General Long says that General Meade called on General Lee on the 10th, and in the course of conversation remarked:

"Now that the war may be considered over, I hope you will not deem it improper for me to ask, for my personal information, the strength of your army during the operations around Richmond and Petersburg."General Lee replied: "At no time did my force exceed 35,000 men; often it was less."

With a look of surprise, Meade answered: "General, you amaze me; we always estimated your force at about seventy thousand men."

General de Chanal, a French officer, who was present, states that General Lee, who had been an associate of Meade's in the engineers in the "old army," said to him pleasantly: "Meade, years are telling on you; your hair is getting quite gray."

"Ah, General Lee," was Meade's prompt reply, "it is not the work of
years; YOU are responsible for my gray hairs!"

This entire book can be found on-line at the Project Gutenberg web site. As with all of their on-line texts, Project Gutenberg states, "This eBook is for the use of anyone anywhere at no cost and with almost no restrictions whatsoever. You may copy it, give it away or re-use it under the terms of the Project Gutenberg License included with this eBook or online at www.gutenberg.net."



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1 comment:

Anonymous said...

This site I found has a DVD entitled "A Leadership Walk Across Gettysburg" which explores in which it discusses the historic leadership decisions that unfolded during the Battle of Gettysburg
A Leadership Walk Across Gettysburg