Today is the 150th anniversary of Lee’s surrender to Grant at Appomattox. It’s important to remember these things.
It’s also important to remember them correctly. Here are Grant’s recollections as recorded in his memoirs.Â Â Grant had a remarkable capacity for not hating people, and it would be like him to feel sympathy for Lee at the surrender. Later that day, according to other accounts, he encountered the Confederate General James “Pete” Longstreet. The pair had been close friends for much of their adults lives. It’s said that upon seeing Longstreet Grant immediately suggested they get together a game of cards, as they used to. Longstreet burst into tears.
Grant forbade loud celebrations along the Union lines and arranged for a dignified ceremony for the surrender of flags, with (by then) Major General Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain in charge. Grant’s sensitivity and generosity of spirit had a lot to do with why armed rebellion more or less stopped, at least against the Union. It is a slander of Grant to suggest he did these things because he recognized Lee to be the better general or that he knew the Union victory was somehow illegitimate; he thought no such thing. He was the better general, and he knew it. So have said a lot of military historians, including some British military historians who could look at the Late Unpleasantness with more objectivity.
It’s said that the victor writes the history books, but that’s not what happened in the U.S.Â Historian Elizabeth Varon explains how southerners twisted the events around in history books to soothe their own egos. So much about how the Civil War and Reconstruction are remembered in popular history is a load of crap.
I’d like to write more on this later, but I need to go do some Zen stuff.