The Final Act; Stacking Arms and Parole
General Lee’s surrender was the simplest part of what is viewed popularly as the Surrender at Appomattox. A joint commission established by Grant and Lee then had to work out the details to make Grants’ terms a reality. Each army named three officers to be party to the work.
The terms of the surrender allowed Confederate soldiers to be paroled and return home, instead of prison. It was not until the April 10 meeting between Grant and Lee that it was agreed each Confederate would be provided with an individual parole pass certifying that the men would not take up arms against the United States. This was to protect them from arrest or annoyance by federal officers. Per Grant’s instructions these passes could aid the former Confederates during their journey home, allowing them to use federal transportation (ships and trains where available) or to draw food and supplies from federally controlled stations in the South. Approximately 30,000 blank passes were printed at the Clover Hill Tavern. After the Confederates surrendered their military equipment, they were eligible to receive the pass. Some higher ranking Confederates were paroled by Federal officers, but most passes were signed by Confederate officers for the men in their commands.
The National Park Service (NPS) has an alphabetical listing of soldiers that were paroled at Appomattox Court House. http://www.nps.gov/apco/learn/historyculture/paroling-the-army-of-northern-virginia.htm.
Grant’s terms encompassed only to those Confederates in the Army of Northern Virginia within 25 miles of Appomattox Court House. The tone of reconciliation set forth between Generals Lee and Grant eased the process of surrender of the Army of Northern Virginia. This conciliatory tone served as a model for the terms of the later surrenders. Grant required an accounting, or list, of the men surrendered at Appomattox, and ultimately the names of 28, 231 Confederate soldiers were recorded on a set of duplicate roles. Grant also required that they formally surrender their equipment and symbols of resistance.
On April 10th, more than 1,500 Confederate Cavalry surrendered.
All of the following photographs were taken during the National Park Service (NPS) 150th Anniversary at Appomattox Court House National Historical Park, April 8-12, 2015.
On April 11th, 2,600 Confederate Artillery surrendered.
On the morning of April 12th the remnants of General Lee’s infantry, 21-22,000 men, marched as organized Confederate units for the last time. They marched from their encampments, east of the village, across the Appomattox River and into Appomattox Court House where they stacked their arms before double rows of Federal infantry. There, along the Richmond-Lynchburg Stage Road the Confederates laid down what was left of their state and regimental battle flags – many emblazoned with the names of Chancellorsville, Gettysburg, Fredericksburg and other bloody fields of the last four years. Before leaving for home the Southerners were issued parole passes.
General Lee’s farewell to most of his soldiers was contained in his final order.
Hd Quarters Army of Nor: Va.
10, April. 1865.
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 brave survivors of so many hard fought battles, who have remained steadfast to the last, that I have consented to this result from no distrust of them.
But feeling that valor and devotion could accomplish nothing that would compensate for the loss that must have attended the continuance of the contest, I 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 increasing admiration of your constancy and devotion to your country, and a grateful remembrance of your kind and generous considerations for myself, I bid you all an affectionate farewell.
General Grant selected General Joshua L. Chamberlain to take charge of this ceremony. He asked for his old brigade, the Third Brigade, First Division, V Corps (which included his old regiment, the 20th Maine) to have the honor of representing the Union Army during this ceremony.
At 5 a.m. on April 12, almost four years to the minute after the first signal shot was fired at Fort Sumter, Chamberlain began assembling elements of the Union Fifth Corps along the road to Lynchburg, the main street of Appomattox Court House, near the courthouse building. Not long afterward the surrendering Confederates marched into the village, led by Gordon’s Second Corps. When Gordon and his soldiers came abreast of Chamberlain and his soldiers, the simple truth is no one knows for certain what happened. What does seem certain is that on some command, the Union soldiers made some change in how they were standing, and that change in turn changed the tone of the surrender ceremony. As Chamberlain later represented the moment, he ordered “shoulder arms,” intending a salute to the surrendering Confederates. Not to be outdone in gallantry, Gordon ordered his men to attention also, “honor answering honor,” in Chamberlain’s phrase. Many Union supporters were shocked by what they saw as a display of admiration for the enemy. Chamberlain, explained later that he saluted not the cause, but the men.
Chamberlain tells us… They fix their bayonets, stack; then, hesitantly, remove their cartridge-boxes and lay them down. Lastly—reluctantly, with agony of expression—they tenderly fold their flags, battle-worn and torn, blood-stained, heart-holding colors, and lay them down…
As stated, April 9, 1865, in the surrender terms, “The officers to give their individual paroles not to take up arms against the government of the United States until properly exchanged and each company or regiment commander sign a like parole for the men of their commands… This done, each officer and man will be allowed to return to his home, not to be disturbed by United States Authority so long as they observe their paroles and the laws in force where they reside.”
General Gibbon was ordered to arrange for a small printing press to print blank parole forms. General George Sharpe supervised the operation, which was carried out at the Clover Hill Tavern. Printing began the afternoon of the 10th and continued from daylight to a late hour each night through the 15th. The total number of officers and men paroled was 28,231.
General Gibbon reported, “Rolls in duplicate had been prepared of the different commands and on the backs of these was placed a printed slot duly filled out and signed by General George H. Sharpe, the assistant provost marshal, each party keeping a copy. Such officers as did not belong to any particular organization signed the parole for themselves. In addition, each officer and man, when he separated from his command, was given one of the paroles to which I have referred after it was properly filled out and signed by his immediate commanding officer.”
The Confederates were issued paroles before heading to homes throughout the Country. Some had only to walk the few miles down the Richmond Lynchburg Stage Road to nearby homes. Others faced days or weeks of travel by rail, boat or horse before they could return home from Confederate service for the final time. The Appomattox paroles would make this journey less treacherous for these surrendered soldiers.
The parole pass issued to Captain Charles Gratiot Thompson at Appomattox. It reads: “Ordnance officer gen THE BEARER Capt. C. G. Thompson of Co. C, McGowan’s Brigade Wilcox’s Division, 3rd Corps, A.N.V. of Baltimore City, a paroled prisoner of the Army of Northern Virginia has permission to go to his home & there remain undisturbed G. E. Taft 2nd Liet. Commanding Company.”
Charles G. Thompson’s parole pass shows markings of his journey home including passage through City Point, Virginia, Fort Monroe and the U. S. Provost Marshall’s office in Baltimore Maryland.
The parole pass issued to Samuel Gideon Marsh is the subject of a web page created by his family http://www.3gvi.org/ga3vetsgmarsh.html. He was a member of the 3rd Georgia Regiment. We are fortunate to see both sides of this document. On the back side we see he was issued one ration on 22/65. It is stamped at Colombia SC.
My next blog will return to the Battle of Fredericksburg and a further look at Confederate Artillery.