The Japanese Emperor Hirohito accepted the Potsdam terms August 15, 1945 ending World War II

The Japanese Emperor and his delegation board the USS Missouri to sign an unconditional surrender September 2, 1945.

General Douglas MacArthur signs the unconditional surrender.

Eighty years before, April 8, 1865, General Lee surrendered the Army of Virginia in the home of Wilmer McLean at Appomattox Court House. As they met, General Grant said, “I met you once before, General Lee, while we were serving in Mexico. I have always remembered your appearance. I think I would have recognized you anywhere.”

After a few minutes of conversation, Lee said, “I suppose, General Grant, that the purpose of our meeting is fully understood. I asked to see you to learn upon what terms you would receive the surrender of my army.”

Grant answered: “The terms I propose are those I offered in my earlier note to you. That is, the officers and men surrendered will not take up arms again. And all your weapons and supplies will become captured property.”

Lee said those were the conditions he had expected. He asked Grant to put the terms in writing so he could sign them. “Very well,” said Grant. “I will write them out.”

It took him several minutes to write the surrender agreement. Only once did he look up.

He had just written the sentence: ‘The arms, artillery, and public property will be given over to the Union Army.’ Grant stopped writing and looked over at the sword the old general wore.

He decided there was no need to hurt Lee’s pride by taking away his sword. So he added:

‘This will not include the side arms of the officers nor their horses or other private property. Each officer and man shall be allowed to return to his home. He will not be disturbed by United States authorities as long as he honors this agreement and obeys the laws where he lives.’

Grant gave the paper to Lee. Lee read it slowly. When he finished, Grant asked if the Confederate General wished to propose any changes. Lee was silent for a moment. “There is one thing,” he said. “The cavalrymen and artillerymen in our army own their own horses. I would like to understand if these men will be allowed to keep their horses.”

“You will find,” Grant said, “that the terms as written do not allow it. Only the officers are permitted to take their private property.”

“You are correct,” said Lee. “I see the terms do not allow it. That is clear.”

Until now, Lee’s face had shown no emotion. But for a moment, his self-control weakened. Grant could see how badly Lee wanted this.

“Well,” said Grant, “I did not know that any private soldiers owned their horses. But I think that this will be the last battle of the war. I sincerely hope so. I think that the surrender of this army will be followed soon by that of all the others.

“I take it that most of your soldiers are small farmers and will need the horses to put in a crop that will carry themselves and their families through the next winter. I will not change the terms as they are written. But I will tell my officers to let all the men who claim to own a horse or mule take the animals home with them to work their little farms.”

Lee was pleased with this. He told Grant: “This will have the best possible effect upon the men. It will be very gratifying and will do much to help our people.”

While waiting for the surrender papers to be copied, Grant presented Lee to the other Union officers in the room. Lee had known some of them before the war.

After a few minutes, Lee turned to Grant. He told him that his army held about one thousand Union soldiers as war prisoners. He said that for the past few days, he had no food but cracked corn to give them. He said he had nothing to give his own men to eat.

Grant called in his supply officer and ordered him to feed the Confederate Army. He told him to send to Lee’s army enough food for twenty-five thousand men.

Finally, the surrender papers were ready. Grant and Lee signed them. Lee shook hands with Grant and walked out of the house.

Lee got on his horse and rode slowly back to his army. As he entered Confederate lines, men began to cheer. But the cheering died when the soldiers saw the pain and sorrow in Lee’s face. Tears filled the old man’s eyes. He could not speak. Soldiers removed their hats and watched silently as Lee rode past. Many wept.

A crowd of soldiers waited at Lee’s headquarters. They pushed close around him trying to touch him, trying to shake his hand.

Lee began to speak. “Boys, I have done the best I could for you. Go home now. And if you make as good citizens as you have soldiers, you will do well. I shall always be proud of you. Goodbye. And God bless you all.”

On the other side of the lines, Union soldiers began to celebrate. Artillerymen fired their guns to salute the victory over Lee.

Grant heard the artillery booming and sent orders that it should stop. “The rebels are our countrymen again,” he said. “We can best show our joy by refusing to celebrate their downfall.”

General Grant left Appomattox Court House to return to his headquarters a few kilometers away. Suddenly, he stopped his horse. He had forgotten to tell President Lincoln or War Secretary Stanton that Lee had surrendered. He sat down at the side of the road and wrote a telegram to Secretary Stanton.

News of the surrender reached Washington late on Sunday. Most citizens in the capital did not learn of it until early the next morning. Then cannons began to boom out over the city. Crowds rushed to the white house to cheer the president. They asked Lincoln to make a victory speech.

Lincoln said he had not prepared a statement. He wished to wait until the next night. He asked the people to come back then and he would have something to say.

Read and enjoy the audio of this entire story.

General Lee appointed General John B. Gordon to turn the surrendered army over to General Grant. Grant selected Joshua L. Chamberlain to receive the vanquished. Here is Chamberlains account:

The momentous meaning of this occasion impressed me deeply. I resolved to mark it by some token of recognition, which could be no other than a salute of arms. Well aware of the responsibility assumed, and of the criticisms that would follow, as the sequel proved, nothing of that kind could move me in the least. The act could be defended, if needful, by the suggestion that such a salute was not to the cause for which the flag of the Confederacy stood, but to its going down before the flag of the Union. My main reason, however, was one for which I sought no authority nor asked forgiveness. 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, and famished, but erect, and with eyes looking level into ours, waking memories that bound us together as no other bond;—was not such manhood to be welcomed back into a Union so tested and assured?

Instructions had been given; and when the head of each division column comes opposite our group, our bugle sounds the signal and instantly our whole line from right to left, regiment by regiment in succession, gives the soldier’s salutation, from the “order arms” to the old “carry”—the marching salute. Gordon at the head of the column, riding with heavy spirit and downcast face, catches the sound of shifting arms, looks up, and, taking the meaning, wheels superbly, making with himself and his horse one uplifted figure, with profound salutation as he drops the point of his sword to the boot toe; then facing to his own command, gives word for his successive brigades to pass us with the same position of the manual,—honor answering honor. On our part not a sound of trumpet more, nor roll of drum; not a cheer, nor word nor whisper of vain-glorying, nor motion of man standing again at the order, but an awed stillness rather, and breath-holding, as if it were the passing of the dead!

This statue is Gordon mounted and ready to lead the surrendered army in.

Chamberlain before a regiment at “parade rest,” receives “our countrymen again.”

Compare the inspiration you just read with news reports from October 20, 2011 featuring the current thug American President and his Arab Spring buddies:


About Richard Johnson

Richard Johnson: a mature Christian who understands the sweep of history, the unique role of America and these times clearly and precisely.
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