Once Grant pushed the Confederate army out of Petersburg, the road was wide open to defeat the Confederacy. The campaign to Appomattox had begun.
Grant’s strategy was to cut off Lee’s supplies and communications. To do this he had two armies: the Army of the Potomac, under General George G. Meade; and the Army of the James, under General Edward O.C. Ord. Combined, he had around 112,000 men against Lee’s Army of Northern Virginia, with only 50,000 soldiers.
Lee was desperate. His men were starving. They had been unable to receive their supplies. Twice they got to them, only to have them stolen. Grant’s cavalry leader, General Phillip Sheridan, shadowed Lee’s every move, making it hard to keep his motives hidden. He planned to move west, and link up with General Joseph Johnston and crush Grant’s Army. Grant correctly guessed his opponent’s moves. He started moving his men into place for the final attack.
On April 9, 1865, Grant completed his encirclement of Lee’s forces. Lee, seeing the futility of resisting, sent word to talk about surrender. The house of Wilmer Mclean was chosen. At first Grant wished to talk on things other than the subject at hand. Finally, Grant wrote kind and generous terms. The Confederates were allowed to keep their horses, they were paroled, and were fed all they could eat. Lee was grateful when he saw that his men would be paroled. He said ”this will have the very best possible effect upon my men”. Lee agreed to these terms. After signing the papers, he rode back to tell his men the news. The Army of Northern Virginia was officially surrendered.
Some of Lee’s men where relieved to surrender. After all, they were eating better than they had in months!
Regardless of your view on the Civil War, a lesson we can learn from this important event in history is kindness. Because of the kindness shown in the surrender terms, the Southerners were willing to go home and be peaceful. This same kindness can solve any problem. Instead of getting angry or frustrated, showing kindness and longsuffering will gain respect, honor, and friends.
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