April 10, 1865 – Lee’s Farewell

From COL Dietrich

Many of you know that I am the President of the Atlanta Civil War Round Table this year. Just wrote and sent this out today to that membership, and feel you will find it of interest also.

Wishing a Happy Hanukkah and Easter to all,

Stay well,


COL John Dietrichs

Old Guard Past Commandant


Lee’s Farewell Address to His Troops

155 years ago today, General Robert E. Lee wrote his farewell address, General Order # 9, to his beloved Army of Northern Virginia. Some 25 “Official” copies were made and signed by General Lee to be sent through military channels to various senior Officers, to be read to their men. The copy attached was delivered to Brigadier General W.H. Stevens, Chief Engineer, Army of Northern Virginia.

In 1960, as the Centennial celebrations began, The Lakeside Press of R.R. Donnelley & Sons Company printers out of Chicago decided to make the most perfect reproduction possible using the technology available at that time. The original of this document was in the possession of then well-known collector and dealer Mr. Forrest H. Sweet. This 1960 reproduction is now in my possession.

Possibly the best and most accurate written description of the meeting between General Lee and General Grant on April 9th, 1865, was written by Grant in his memoirs. The following is a partial transcript of his observations and memories.


“A Man of Much Dignity”

“….When I went in to the house (the McClean House) I found General Lee. We greeted each other, and after shaking hands took our seats. I had my staff with me, a good portion of whom were in the room during the whole of the interview.”

“What General Lee’s feelings were I do not know. As he was a man of much dignity, with an impassable face, it was impossible to say whether he felt inwardly glad that the end had finally come, or felt sad over the result, and was too manly to show it. Whatever his feelings, they were entirely concealed from my observations, but my own feelings, which had been quite jubilant on the receipt of his letter, were sad and depressed. I felt like anything rather than rejoicing at the downfall of a foe who had fought so long and so valiantly.”

            “General Lee was dressed in a full uniform which was entirely new, and was wearing a sword of considerable value, very likely the sword which had been presented by the State of Virginia; at all events, it was an entirely different sword from the one that would ordinarily be worn in the field. In my rough traveling suit, the uniform of a private with the straps of a lieutenant-general, I must have contrasted very strangely with a man so handsomely dressed, six feet high and of faultless form. But this was not a matter that I thought of until afterwards.”

            “….Then we gradually fell off again into conversation about matters foreign to the subject which had brought us together. This continued for some little time, when General Lee again interrupted the course of the conversation by suggesting that the terms I proposed to give his army ought to be written out. I called to General (Ely S.) Parker, secretary on my staff, for writing materials, and commenced writing out the following terms:”


“The Terms

Appomattox C.H., Va.

Ap’l 9th, 1865


Gen. R. E. Lee,

Comd’g C.S.A.


Gen: In accordance with the substance of my letter to you of the 8th inst., I propose to receive the surrender of the Army of N. Va. on the following terms, to wit: Rolls of all the officers and men to be made in duplicate. One copy to be given to an officer designated by me, the other to be retained by such officer or officers as you may designate. The officers to give their individual paroles not to take up arms against the Government of the United States until properly exchanged, and each company or regimental commander sign a like parole for the men of their commands. The arms, artillery and public property to be parked and stacked, and turned over to the officer appointed by me to receive them. This will not embrace the side arms of the officers, nor their private horses or baggage. This done, 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.

Very respectfully,


                                                                                                                                            Lt. Gen.”


“…When (General Lee) read once over that part of the terms about the side arms, horses and private property of the officers, he remarked, with some feeling, I thought, that this would have a happy effect upon his army”

            “General Lee, after all was completed and before taking his leave, remarked that his army was in a very bad condition for want of food, and that they were without forage; that his men had been living for some days on parched corn exclusively, and that he would have to ask me for rations and forage. I told him ‘certainly,’ and asked for how many men he wanted rations. His answer was ‘about twenty-five thousand’: and I authorized him to send his own commissary and quartermaster to Appomattox Station, two or three miles away, where he could have, out of trains we had stopped, all the provisions wanted. As for forage, we had ourselves depended almost entirely upon the country for that.”


The “side arms of the officers” they would be allowed to keep included both swords and pistols – this included Lee’s own sword, which he kept and took with him when he left the McClean House.


Would that all Americans today might recognize the dignity, courage and honor of officers and soldiers on both sides of this conflict, as did General Grant. His generosity of terms exceeded what might have been offered by many others, and allowed General Lee to write the attached farewell message to the men of his Army of Northern Virginia. He could do so with his head held high, having served them well in both victory and defeat.

I also include a Centennial copy of a Southern print honoring the furling of the flag under which many in the South had served and died, that we might again be united under one flag, the Stars & Stripes.


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