Today, April 10, 1865, one day after surrendering his army to Union General Ulysses S. Grant, Confederate General Robert E. Lee addresses his army for the last time, and issues this farewell to his men.
“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 the result from no distrust of them…I determined to avoid the useless sacrifice of those whose past services have endeared them to their countrymen…I bid you an affectionate farewell.”
This closed the book on one of the most remarkable armies in history. The Army of Northern Virginia had fought against long odds for four years and won most of the battles in which it engaged the Union’s Army of the Potomac. Along the way, Lee was idolized by his troops as few military leaders ever have been. The final surrender was a bitter pill for Lee to swallow, but the grace of his final communiqué to his troops exhibited the virtues that made him the single most enduring symbol of the Confederacy.
The signing of the surrender is a historic event that overwhelms everyone. Many of the witnesses want some souvenir from this eventful day. General “Little Phil” Philip Sheridan buys the table the surrender was signed
on from the owner of the house, Wilmer McCLean, and he gives to the man he considers his most valuable commander, General George Armstrong Custer. Custer rides home with the table strapped across his
horse, and gives it to his wife, Libby Custer. Sheridan will be Custer’s best protector from this moment on right up to the last, which will come on June 25, 1876.
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Photo courtesy of wikipedia.com