When Lee was at last given
command of an army, he fought his own kind of war. In less than three months, he
drove out the enemy and invaded the North. Even then, Davis kept a large
number of soldiers on guard duty in Virginia. So it happened that
one-fourth of Pickett's crack troops were guarding a supply depot near Virginia
during the important battle of Gettysburg.
Lee lost the battle. Could
he have won with the extra men? No one knows. But no one doubts that
fighting two wars at the same time left Lee an old man. Lee remains a
He surrendered to General Grant at
Appomattox Courthouse on April 9, 1865, after Union forces prevented the
escape of some 27,000 Confederate soldiers. They had tried to escape after
the fall of Richmond when they tried to reach Lynchburg and its railroad.
But the Federals blocked their way, leaving Lee's men entirely surrounded and
Grant told him that the
unconditional surrender was the only option. When he was ready to sign the
surrender, Lee told an aide, "There is nothing left for me to do but to see
Grant, and I would rather die a thousand deaths." Lee and Grant met
in the parlor of the brick house of Wilmer McLean, who had moved to Appomattox
from Manassas Junction after a shell passed through his house during the first
Battle of Bull Run. Lee arrived at the house first and was seated when
Grant came in. Lee rose, a resplendent figure in his dress gray uniform,
to shake hands with Grant, dressed in a rumpled military tunic with
mud-spattered trousers that were stuffed into muddy boots.
Grant allowed Lee's men to keep their small arms and horses and to be paroled
without punishment as long as they didn't take up arms against the North again.
Lee appreciated the generous terms. After the surrender was signed, Grant
asked Lee if he would permit him to send rations to the starving Confederate
troops and Lee gratefully accepted. Lee was free to
go. Bowing slightly to the men in the room, the General walked out
to the porch to wait for his horse. After four bloody years and a half
million deaths, the American Civil war was over.