On April 9, 1865 General Robert E. Lee surrendered to Union General Ulysses S. Grant at Appomattox, Virginia. This signaled the start of the end of the American Civil War.
Prior to Surrender
In early 1865, the Union Army began marching through the state of Virginia, pushing back the Confederate forces. In hopes of uniting with more Confederate troops in North Carolina, General Robert E. Lee and the Confederate Army abandoned the capital of Richmond and retreated. However, the Union Army soon cut off their retreat and they were forced to stop at Appomattox, Virginia.
General Grant and the Union Army had the Confederates surrounded. The Confederates were low on supplies, many soldiers were deserting, and they were greatly outnumbered. Upon looking at the conditions and the odds, General Lee felt he had no choice but to surrender.
The two Generals, Lee and Grant, met on April 9, 1865 to discuss the surrender of Lee's army. General Grant came and met Lee at the McLean house in Appomattox. Grant had great respect for Lee and, before they got down to surrender terms, he actually made some small talk with Lee.
Terms of Surrender
General Grant had already discussed terms with President Lincoln. President Lincoln wanted peace to come to the Union and felt he needed to treat the Confederate soldiers such that they would not rebel again. The terms of the surrender were generous: Confederate soldiers would have to turn in their rifles, but they could return home immediately and keep their horses or mules. They were also given food as many of them were very hungry.
Appomattox Court House by the National Park Service
These terms were more than Lee and the Confederate Army could ask for. Although they were crushed to have to surrender, they could not dispute the fairness with which they were treated by the North.
The Rest of the Southern Army
There were many more soldiers and armies throughout the south that had not yet surrendered. However, when they heard of Lee's surrender at Appomattox, many of them knew the war was over. General Joseph Johnston surrendered his army to General Sherman on April 26, 1865. Many other officers followed in surrendering. The last Confederate general to surrender was General Stand Watie who surrendered on June 23, 1865.
President Jefferson Davis Captured
On May 5, 1865 Confederate President Jefferson Davis held the last meeting of his cabinet. They officially dissolved, or ended, the Confederate government. Davis tried to escape, but was soon captured. He spent the next two years in prison.
The War Officially Over
On August 20, 1866 President Andrew Johnson signed a document stating that the American Civil War was over and all of America was at peace.