ExploreSouthernHistory.com - Surrender of Robert E. Lee, Virginia
ExploreSouthernHistory.com - Surrender of Robert E. Lee, Virginia
McLean House at Appomattox
The home in which Robert E. Lee surrendered to
Ulysses S. Grant has been reconstructed by the
National Park Service.
McLean House Parlor
The parlor of the McLean
House has been furnished as
the original was on the day
Lee surrendered to Grant.
Site of the Second Meeting
Generals Lee and Grant met
here on the morning of April
10, 1865, to began the
process of paroling the men
and officers of the Army of
Northern Virginia.
Bedroom at McLean House
The reconstructed house
looks much as it did when it
was the home of the McLean
Surrender of Robert E. Lee - Appomattox Court House, Virginia
I would rather die a thousand
On April 9, 1865, after learning that his army
had been unable to break through encircling
Union lines at the
Battle of Appomattox Court
House, General Robert E. Lee told his staff
that there was nothing left for him to do but
"go and see General Grant, and I would
rather die a thousand deaths."

After four years of bitter war against larger
armies and more advanced weaponry, the
famed Army of Northern Virginia had finally
been cornered in the fields and pastures
surrounding the little Virginia town of
Appomattox Court House. Dramatically out-
numbered and cut off from any hope of
supply or reinforcement, Lee made one last
attempt to cut his way out. When the effort
failed, he sent a letter to General Ulysses S.
Grant requesting a meeting with the Union

Grant was then about twelve miles away from
Appomattox Court House near present-day
Hixburg, Virginia. He was suffering from a
severe headache that morning as he rode on
horseback, pushing his men forward in an all
out effort to cut off Lee's maneuver to unit his
army with that of General Joseph E. Johnston
in North Carolina. When the letter arrived
from the Confederate general, however,
Grant's headache vanished.

Union officers sent to arrange the conference
found General Lee sitting under an apple
tree. He summoned his staff and rode with
Grant's emissaries into Appomattox Court
House to arrange a suitable location for the

As the party of officers, some in blue and
some in gray, arrived in town, Lieutenant
Colonel Charles Marshall (Lee's
Aid-de-Camp) spotted local resident Wilmer
McLean. Riding up to the man, he inquired if
he knew of a building where the two generals
could meet. McLean pointed out an empty
structure. When he realized it would be
unsuitable for what was about to take place,
however, he offered his own home.

Arrangements were made to receive the
generals in the parlor of the McLean House.
General Lee arrived first, reaching the house
at around 1 p.m. and taking a seat in the
parlor to await the arrival of his adversary. He
was dressed in his finest uniform.

Grant arrived about thirty minutes later,
wearing a simple uniform that was dirty and
splattered with mud from his hard ride.

The two commanders, both veterans of the
Mexican War, talked cordially for about twenty-
five minutes before Lee finally raised the
topic of his surrender.

Despite his reputation as "Unconditional
Surrender" Grant, the Union general offered
generous terms to his defeated foe. The
entire Army of Northern Virginia would be
paroled, soldiers with horses or mules could
take them home and officers would be
allowed to keep their side arms. The last
clause spared Lee from the humiliation of a
classic surrender of his sword.
Lee accepted the terms and the two men
signed the final agreement in the parlor of
the McLean House as a host of officers from
both sides looked on in silence. Among them
was a man who would later meet his own
destiny at the Little Big Horn, General George
Armstrong Custer.

The generous terms offered to General Lee
by General Grant did much to ease tensions
among the Confederates. Provided with
rations by the Federals, they signed their
paroles and began making their long trips

The surrender of the Army of Northern
Virginia did not end the Civil War, but it began
the process. Fighting would continue at
places as widespread as Palmitto Ranch,
Texas and
Columbus, Georgia, and the last
known soldier killed in the war would not fall
for another six weeks. The last Confederate
commander, Brigadier General Stand Watie,
did not surrender until June of 1865 and even
then expressed disbelief that Lee and the
forces in the East had been beaten.

The McLean House was later dismantled as
part of a plan to move it to Washington, D.C.,
for use as a tourist attraction. The project,
failed, however, and the pieces of the house
were allowed to deteriorate. As part of the
development of
Appomattox Court House
National Historical Park the park service
undertook major effort to reconstruct the
famed house.

Now part of the park, the reconstructed home
can be toured daily.
Please click here to visit
our main Appomattox Court House page to
learn more about its historic sites and Lee's
last battle.
McLean House in 1865
This photo shows the McLean
family posing in front of their
home in August of 1865.
National Park Service Collection
Photos by Heather LaBone
Custom Search
Copyright 2011 by Dale Cox
All rights reserved.