The Surrender of Gen. Lee
Before Chamberlain gave this speech in 1868 there was surprisingly little said about the formal surrender. The surrender was signed on April 9th, but
the formal surrender ceremony would not take place until the 12th. Most reporters and generals left town with Grant and Lee, few people remained to see the paroles handed out or the low key
The Boston Evening Transcript appears to be the first to report on it on June 5, 1865 stating,
Gen. Chamberlain, (formerly a Professor of Bowdoin College, Maine) a man of eminent attainments and valor,
was designated by Gen. Grant to receive the surrender of the Generals of Lee's army at Appomattox Court House.
This was done with the usual courtesies of war; but when General Wise's turn came, his old habit of talking came on -
he could not give this sign of submission without protest; and among a flow of words he said, 'General Chamberlain, we are
subjugated, but not subdued. Sir, we have here (striking his breast) hearts burning with undying hate. We hate you, Sir - I hate you!" 1
When writing on Chamberlain's brevet appointment to Major General on July 22, 1865 the New York Times would state,
"Gen. Chamberlain, was selected, it will be remembered, as the officer to receive the actual surrender of Lee's army, which stacked arms in front of his division."1
The Evening Star would put out a similar article on that date. Journals and diaries also record the account.
The Corn Exchange would print in their Annual Report of 1866 a journal of the Corn Exchange Regiment,
"April 12. At 5 A.M., moved out to receive the rebel arms and colors.
- Occupied until 1 P. M. - 84 battle-flags and 15,000 muskets were laid down in front of our Brigade, which had the honor of receiving them!"2
Ellis Spear of the 20th Maine would write in his diary,
"Tuesday Apr. 11 Foggy. Moved into town & waited for the Enemy to tun over their arms.
Troops sent into camp. Gen Chamberlain assigned to command of the 3rd Brig. Detailed on Gen Cs staff.
Wednesday, Apl 12 Our Brigade recd the arms of Gordons & Longstreets corps which included all the remains of the infantry force of the army of N. Vir All passed off quietly without demonstration
Gens Ivins, Field, Wise, Bennings, Walker, & others commanding. Relieved at one by other brigade after all arms were turned over. Today the anniversary of the
opening of the war saw the end of its great army."3
Holman Melcher also from the 20th would write in his diary,
"Wednesday, April 12 1865
Today is the most interesting of all. The Rebel Infantry marched out and stacked their arms in front of the 1st Division which was drawn up to receive the surrender.
They realize today, I hope, that they are really surrendering to us. Genl. Gordon objected very strongly to this but was brought to it."4
In 1866 a South Carolinian from A. P. Hill's Division would remember the surrender,
"I am forced to admit that the Federal officers and troops conducted themselves with singular propriety throughout this time. We could hear, within their lines, an occasional cheer and the music of bands;
but they did not approach us, or even given any indication of malicious triumph from the distance. A few of the general officers came into our lines, at different times, either on official errands
or to visit their acquaintances among us; but they came without parade, and departed without uncourteous reference to our misfortune. Affiliation was out of the question: we were content with
civility. Gen. Grant sent us a small ration of beef. I do not know that any bread was issued. According to the terms of surrender, the Government property, consisting of quartermaster
commissary and ordnance stores, was turned over to the Federal officers appointed for that purpose. The troops were marched out, generally by divisions or brigades, and stacked their arms
and colors before the lines of Federals brought to our side of Appomattox Court House to receive them. All private property - as horses, side arms, and clothing- we were allowed to retain.
Our brigade surrendered its arms on the morning of the 12th of April. A line of Federal soldiers was drawn up on each side of the road between us and Appomattox Court House.
Immediately in front of one or the other of these, a Confederate command would perform the last humiliating task. We marched through the mud and rain, and did as the rest stacked
arms and colors and then returned to make ready for our departure."5
A Southern History published in 1867 would describe the ceremony,
"On the 12th April; the Army of Northern Virginia had its last parade. On that day, in pursuance of an arrangement of the commissioners of surrender, the troops marched by divisions to a spot in the
neighborhood of Appomattox Court-house, where they stacked arms and deposited accoutrements. About seventy-five hundred men laid down their arms; but the capitulation included in addition
some eighteen thousand stragglers who were unarmed, and who came up to claim the benefit of surrender and accept paroles. With remarkable delicacy, Gen. Grant was not present at the ceremony,
and had not been visible since his interview of the 9th with Gen. Lee.
Indeed, this Federal commander had, in the closing scenes of the contest, behaved with a magnanimity and decorum that must ever be remembered to his credit even by those who disputed his reputation
in other respects, and denied his claims to great generalship. He had with remarkable facility accorded honourable and liberal terms to the vanquished army. He did nothing to dramatize
the surrender; he made no triumphal entry into Richmond; he avoided all those displays of triumph so dear to the Northern heart; he spared everything that might wound the feelings or imply the
humiliation of a vanquished foe. There were no indecent exultations; no 'sensations;' no shows; he received the surrender of his adversary with every courteous recognition due an honourable enemy,
and conducted the closing scenes with as much simplicity as possible."6
In later years others like Henry Kyd Douglas would write,
"When the time came to march out and give up our guns and flags, in surrender, I asked General Gordon to let my brigade - as it had fired the last shot - be the last to stack arms.
This he readily granted. In a little while my time came. A heavy line of Union soldiers stood opposite us in absolute silence. As my decimated and ragged band with their
bullet-torn banner marched to its place, someone in the blue line broke the silence and called for three cheers for the last brigade to surrender. It was taken up all about him
by those who knew what it meant. But for us this soldierly generosity was more than we could bear. Many of the grizzled veterans wept like women, and my own eyes were as blind as my voice was dumb.
Years have passed since then and time mellows memories, and now I almost forget the keen agony of that bitter day when I recall how that line of blue broke its respectful
silence to pay such tribute, at Appomattox, to the little line in grey that had fought them to the finish and only surrendered because it was destroyed." 7
And General Gordon would recall,
When the Confederate battleflags had been furled forever, and as a Confederate corps marched to the point where its arms were to be stacked, it moved in front of the
division commanded by that knightly soldier, General Joshua L. Chamberlain of Maine. That brilliant officer called his command into line and saluted the
Confederates at a "present arms" as they filed by, a final and fitting tribute of Northern chivalry to Southern courage.8
This appears to be the same speech as one given a month later called Surrender of Lee and His Army
. Continue on to that page for more notes, each speech will lead you to the next with notes comparing how the speeches change and what lead to the change.