Old Glory waves proudly in the gun smoke-created fog as Union infantrymen fire at Confederate infantrymen during the April 9, 2015 “real time” Battle of Appomattox Court House in Virginia. (Brian Swartz Photo)
The Civil War sesquicentennial officially ends this weekend as the 150th anniversary observances wind down at Appomattox Court House in Southside Virginia. Organizers pulled out all the stops to educate ACH National Historic Park visitors about what happened here in this quaint village exactly 150 years ago.
Maine at War visited the park on Wednesday, April 8 and Thursday, April 9 to meet the soldiers and civilians and relive various “real time” events. To the delight of onlookers, Civil War re-enactors set up camps outside the village — Confederates to the east, adjacent to the Peers House, and Union soldiers to the west, a bit beyond the McLean House — and spent five days marching and riding through the village.
We met various generals, including Grant, Lee, Joshua Chamberlain (a distant relative of Maine’s best-known war hero), Rufus Ingalls (Army of the Potomac quartermaster general), and George Armstrong Custer, as flamboyant in 2015 as he was in 1865. We spotted Phil Sheridan lounging on the McLean House porch, and we never did identify a three-star Confederate general who passed us.
Thursday’s “real time” events included the Battle of Appomattox Station, the appearance of a white-flag waving Confederate truce team, and the surrender of Robert E. Lee to Ulysses S. Grant.
The overflow crowd lining the McLean House fence several rows deep went almost silent as Lee emerged from the front doors at 3 p.m., April 9, 2015, exactly 150 years to the minute that he had left the house after signing the surrender documents. Lee descended the steps, climbed onto Traveler, and doffed his hat to Grant as he did on April 9, 1865.
Grant returned the honor, as he did 150 years ago.
Then Lee and Traveler rode away into American mythology, as they did shortly after 3 p.m., Palm Sunday, April 9, 1865.
We share images from the Appomattox Court House 150th commemoration.
Confederate infantrymen fought their last battle in Virginia at Appomattox Court House on April 9, 1865. These re-enactors restaged that fight at ACH National Historic Park on Thursday, April 9, 2015. (Brian Swartz Photo)
Heavy shooting by the adjacent Federal infantry left these Union cavalry troopers enshrouded in a gun smoke-induced fog at Appomattox Court House at approximately 10 a.m., Thursday, April 9, 2015, almost 150 years to the very hour when the last battle of the Civil War to be fought in Virginia took place outside this village east of Lynchburg. (Brian Swartz Photo)
Three Union cavalrymen bear a white flag as they ride toward an approaching Confederate truce team at Appomattox Court House on April 9, 2015. (Brian Swartz Photo)
Midway between the opposing battle lines, a Confederate officer delivers to his Union counterpart a dispatch indicating the General Robert E. Lee wishes to surrender his army. (Brian Swartz Photo)
Waving his cap and shouting, “Lee has surrendered!,” an ecstatic Federal cavalryman rides toward his comrades at Appomattox Court House on April 9, 2015. The records left by Maine soldiers present on April 9, 1865 reveal that many such jubilant messengers bore the news into the Union lines. (Brian Swartz Photo)
At 1:30 p.m., April 9, 2015, General Ulysses Simpson Grant and his staff and aides ride toward the McLean House at Appomattox Court House. This “real time” event recalled the history made here exactly 150 years ago, to the hour. (Brian Swartz Photo)
Thousands of people line the main street of Appomattox Court House to watch Grant and his staff approach the McLean House on April 9, 2015. (Brian Swartz Photo)
At 3 p.m., April 9, 2015, Robert E. Lee leaves the McLean House after surrendering his Army of Northern Virginia. General Phil Sheridan stands immediately above Lee. (Brian Swartz Photo)
As Robert E. Lee leaves the McLean House on April 9, 2015, an aide brings up Traveler. (Brian Swartz Photo)
After climbing into the saddle, Robert E. Lee doffs his hat to Ulysses S. Grant, as occurred at Appomattox Court House on April 9, 1865. (Brian Swartz Photo)
As happened at Appomattox Court House on April 9, 1865, General Robert E. Lee and his horse, Traveler, ride away into American mythology on Thursday, April 9, 2015. (Brian Swartz Photo)
General Ulysses S. Grant and his staff honor the departing Robert E. Lee by doffing their hats at the McLean House on April 9, 2015. Grant and his staff honored Lee by a similar gesture exactly 150 years ago. (Brian Swartz Photo)
Brian Swartz can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. He would love to hear from Civil War buffs interested in Maine’s involvement in the war.