Confederate General Robert E. Lee issued his Farewell Address to his soldiers today in 1865. Now WE know em

Photograph taken by Mathew Brady in April, 1865.

Photograph taken by Mathew Brady in April, 1865.

Confederate General Robert E. Lee surrendered to Grant on April 9, 1865, at Appomattox Court House, Virginia.

Lee had resisted calls by some of his officers to reject surrender and allow small units to melt away into the mountains, setting up a lengthy guerrilla war.

Lee had insisted the war was over and energetically campaigned for inter-sectional reconciliation.

“So far from engaging in a war to perpetuate slavery, I am rejoiced that slavery is abolished. I believe it will be greatly for the interests of the South.”

That night Lee sat with several of his officers, aides, as well as his son Custis, before a fire in front of his tent. After some conversation about the army, and the events of the day, in which his feelings toward his men were strongly expressed, he instructed his secretary Charles Marshall to prepare an order to the troops.

April 10, 1865

Charles Marshall recalled that it was raining that day, many people were coming and going, and he was unable to write without interruption.

Then about 10 in the morning, General Lee learned that the order had not been completed due to distractions.

Lee directed Marshall to get into his ambulance (carriage), and placed an orderly to prevent any one from approaching him.

Marshall wrote the first draft in pencil.

When Lee read the first draft, he edited out an entire paragraph, made one or two verbal changes, and then gave it to one of the clerks in the adjutant-general’s office to write out in ink.

Upon completion of the final draft, Marshall accepted the order and personally presented it to Lee.

Lee read it over, signed it, and gave it back to Marshall who prepared two additional original copies now titled General Order Number 9.

Both of these copies were also signed by Lee, and prepared for transmission to corps commanders and staff of the army.

A good many additional copies were printed and personally signed by Lee. In this way, copies of the order were signed by Lee as if they were originals.

 Lee’s Farewell Address

The text of the order as issued was as follows:

Headquarters, Army of Northern Virginia, 10th April 1865.

General Order

No. 9

After four years of arduous service marked by unsurpassed courage and fortitude, the Army of Northern Virginia has been compelled to yield to overwhelming numbers and resources.

I need not tell the survivors of so many hard fought battles, who have remained steadfast to the last, that I have consented to the result from no distrust of them.

But feeling that valour and devotion could accomplish nothing that could compensate for the loss that must have attended the continuance of the contest, I have determined to avoid the useless sacrifice of those whose past services have endeared them to their countrymen.

By the terms of the agreement, officers and men can return to their homes and remain until exchanged. You will take with you the satisfaction that proceeds from the consciousness of duty faithfully performed, and I earnestly pray that a merciful God will extend to you his blessing and protection.

With an unceasing admiration of your constancy and devotion to your Country, and a grateful remembrance of your kind and generous consideration for myself, I bid you an affectionate farewell.

— R. E. Lee, General, General Order No. 9

General Robert E. Lee's Farewell to His Soldiers

General Robert E. Lee’s Farewell to His Soldiers

After the war, Lee was not arrested or punished, but he did lose his right to vote as well as some property.

Lee supported President Johnson’s plan of Reconstruction, but joined with Democrats in opposing the Radical Republicans who demanded punitive measures against the South, distrusted its commitment to the abolition of slavery and, indeed, distrusted the region’s loyalty to the United States.

Lee generally supported civil rights for all, as well as a system of free public schools for blacks, but dissented regarding their right to vote.

Most of all, Lee became an icon of reconciliation between the North and South, and the reintegration of former Confederates into the national fabric.

Lee’s prewar family home, the Custis-Lee Mansion, was seized by Union forces during the war and turned into Arlington National Cemetery. His family was not compensated until 1883.

 Now WE know em

Mathew Brady portrait of Lee on April 16, 1865, Richmond, Virginia.

Mathew Brady portrait of Lee on April 16, 1865, Richmond, Virginia.


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