From the 20 January 1894 issue of The New York Times.

STORY OF LEE’S SURRENDER


TOLD FOR THE FIRST TIME FROM THE CONFEDERATE STANDPOINT.


Col. Charles Marshall, Who Was Lee’s Military Secretary, Gives the Maryland Confederate Society the Final Correspondence with Grant—Interesting Documents Which Led to the Surrender at Appomattox—Union Leader’s Kindness.

BALTIMORE, Jan. 19.—Not since the foundation of the Maryland Confederate Society has there been such a notable gathering at its annual banquet as was present at the Carrollton Hotel last night, when the eighty-seventh anniversary of the birth of Gen. Robert E. Lee was celebrated. The occasion was one of great historical interest to all living participants in the civil war.

Some of the guests of the evening were United States Senators Berry and Eppa Hunton, Congressmen Catchings, Charles E. Hooker, Patterson, Talbot, Stephen R. Mallory, son of the Confederate Secretary of the Navy; Speaker Crisp and Gen. Wade Hampton of South Carolina.

The society is one of the largest and most enthusiastic organizations of its kind in the country, and embraces in its ranks two of the highest living officers in the Confederate troops of Maryland—Major Gen. George H. Stewart and Brig. Gen. Bradley T. Johnson. Every year the society and its friends listen to an address from some conspicuous personage who was identified wih the lost cause, and afterward regale themselves with the pleasures of the table and oratorical tributes.

The lecture to-night, which preceded the banquet, was notable, because for the first time, the story of Lee’s surrender was told from the Confederate standpoint by Col. Charles Marshall, Confederate States Army, one of the most prominent members of the Baltimore bar, who was a witness of the closing scene in Wilmer McLean’s house at Appomattox.

As the military Secretary of Gen. Lee, he accompanied his chief at the meeting with Gen. Grant to arrange the terms upon which the army of Northern Virginia was to be surrendered. Col. Marshall was Lee’s Adjutant General as well as his military secretary.

The lecture was delivered in the Concert Hall of Harris’s Academy of Music. Many noted men representing both sides of the great controversy heard it.

Cardinal Gibbons occupied a seat on the stage, surrounded by the Senators and Congressmen who came over from Washington. The hall was crowded and hundreds were turned away. Gen. Bradley T. Johnson introduced Col. Marshall, who spoke in part as follows:

When old soldiers and sailors meet for a talk about the war, it must be admitted that they sometimes forget the reverence due the divinity commonly spoken of as the goddess of truth. For my part, I have heard events that occurred under my own eyes described in such a way that I failed to recognize them.

This tendency to exaggerate and invent in describing events that excite great interest, and particularly such as appeal to the feelings and passions of men, makes itself felt long after the events have occurred and impairs the value of history. We do not yet know with certainty the effects of the battle of Waterloo, and as to Chancellorsville and Gettysburg, although I witnessed both, I sometimes think, in view of the absolutely irreconcilable accounts of those two engagements, a Bishop Whately might readily create historic doubts as to whether either was in fact fought.

During the late war it was my duty to prepare the reports of Gen. Lee under his directions. One who has had this experience can appreciate the different ways in which the same thing presents itself to different minds, especially when the description is written sometimes long after the event, and in the midst of the distractions incident to active service. Yet it is from such sources as these that the details of military operations must be derived by the historian.

Much of this confusion and contradiction of statement is due to the fact that the narrators of such things do not always confine themselves strictly to the statement of what they did themselves, but are much disposed to include in their reports what they think was done or ommitted to be done by others.

After the disaster of Sailor’s Creek, the army, reduced to two corps under the command of Gen. Longstreet and Gen. Gordon, moved through Farmville, where rations were issued to some of the starving troops. The close pursuit of the overwhelming army of Gen. Grant made it necessary to remove the wagon trains before all the men could be supplied, and the remnant of the great Army of Northern Virginia, exhausted by fighting and starvation, moved on the road to Appomattox Court House. On the afternoon of the 7th of April Gen. Grant sent the following letter to Gen. Lee:

April 7, 1865

Gen. R. E. Lee, Commanding C.S.A.:

General: The result of the last week must convince you of the hopelessness of further resistance on the part of the Army of Northern Virginia in this struggle.

I feel that it is so, and regard it as my duty to shift from myself the responsibility of any further effusion of blood by asking of you the surrender of that portio nof the Confederate States Army known as the Army of Northern Virginia. Very respectfully, your obedient servant,

U. S. GRANT, Lieutenant General.

There was some difference of opinion among the general officers as to the nature of the reply to be made to Gen. Grant’s letter, some thinking that it was yet possible to save the remnant of the army. Finally, Gen. Lee decided to send the following answer to Gen. Grant’s letter:

April 7, 1865

General: I have received your note of this date. Though not entertaining the opinion you express of the hopelessness of further resistance on the part of the Army of Northern Virginia, I reciprocate your desire to avoid useless effusion of blood, and, therefor, before considering your proposition, ask the terms you will offer on condition of its surrender. Very respectfully, your obedient servant,

R. E. LEE, General.

To Lieut. Gen. U. S. Grant, Commanding Armies of the United States.

The next day Gen. Grant replied as follows:

Gen. R. E. Lee, Commanding C.S.A.:

General: Your note of last evening in reply to mine of the same date, asking the conditions on which I will accept the surrender of the Army of Northern Virginia, is just received. In reply I would say that, peace being my great desire, there is but one condition I insist upon, namely, that the men and officers surrendered shall be disqualified for taking up arms again against the Government of the United States until properly exchanged.

I will meet you, or will designate officers to meet any officers you name for the same purpose, at any point agreeable to you, for the purpose of arranging definitely the terms upon which the surrender of the Army of Northern Virginia will be received. Very respectfully, your obedient servant,

U. S. Grant, Lieutenant General.

It will be observed that Gen. Grant in this letter manifested that delicate consideration for his great adversary which marked all his subsequent conduct toward him. He offered to have the terms of the capitulation arranged by officers to be appointed for the purpose by himself and Gen. Lee, thus sparing the latter the pain and mortification of conducting personally the arrangements for the surrender of his army.

I have no doubt that this proposition proceeded from the sincere desire of Gen. Grant to do all in his power to spare the feelings of Gen. Lee, but it is not unworthy of remark that when Lord Cornwallis opened his correspondence with Gen. Washington which ended in the surrender at Yorktown, his Lordship proposed in his letter of Oct. 17, 1771: “A cessation of hostilities for twenty-four hours, and that two officers may be appointed by each side, to meet at Mr. Moore’s house, to settle terms for the surrender of the posts of York and Gloucester.”

In view of this letter, and of the fact that Cornwallis declined to attend the ceremony of the surrender of his army, deputing Gen. O’Hara to represent him on that occasion, it is very plain that his lordship shrunk from sharing with his army the humiliation of surrender.

Gen. Grant’s letter offered Gen. Lee an opportunity to avoid the trial to which the British commander felt himself unequal. As I said on another occasion, “through the pain and humiliation of his position, his great career about to close in defeat, and all that he had done about to be made unavailing, he saw the path of duty and he trod it with as firm a step and as brave a heart and as lofty a mien as if it had been the way of triumph.”

The exhausted troops were halted for rest on the evening of the 8th of April, near Appomattox Court House, and the march was ordered to be resumed at 1 o’clock A.M. When the Army halted, Gen. Lee and his staff turned out of the road into a dense wood to seek some rest. The General had a conference with some of the principal officers, at which it was determined to try to force our way the next morning with the troops of Gordon, supported by the cavalry under Gen. Fitzhugh Lee, the command of Longstreet bringing up the rear.

Col. Marshall then recounted the events preliminary to the surrender at Appomattox, read letters passing between Gens. Grant and Lee looking to a suspension of hostilities, and followed with a minute description of the conference between the two commanding Generals when articles of surrender wee signed. He concluded as follows:

When Gen. Lee returned to his lines a large number of men gathered around him, to whom he announced what had taken place, and the causes that had rendered the surrender necessary. Great emotion was manifested by officers and men, but love and sympathy for their commander mastered every other feeling.

According to the reports of the Chief of Ordnance less than 8,000 armed men surrendered, exclusive of the cavalry. The others who were present were unarmed, having been unable to carry their arms from exhaustion and hunger. Many had fallen from the ranks during the arduous march, and unarmed men continued to arrive for several days after the surrender, swelling the number of paroled prisoners greatly beyond the actual effective force.

At the conclusion of the lecture the veterans and their guests formed in line, and, preceded by the Fifth Regiment Veteran Corps Band, marched to the Carrollton Hotel, where covers were laid for 250 persons.

RICHMOND, Va., Jan. 19.—Lee’s birthday was selebrated here by a parade of the Richmond Howitzers, a salute of ten guns fired by that organization, and a “campfire” on the part of the Lee Camp Confederate Veterans, of which war reminiscences and songs were the chief features. The day being a legal State holiday, all banks and State and municipal offices were closed.