A day late, but I am posting it any way since Appamatox is one the few places I have been in America that I consider “holy ground.” I am going to write an essay on this one day, but I need to do a bit more thinking about the topic before I write it. I don’t understand it enough yet. I draw the idea of “holy ground” from my experiences in Greece, where I am convinced the term reaches into something quite real. Phillipi, for example, where Paul baptized Lydia is such an area. I don’t know if its holy because Lydia was the first person baptized there, of if the ground became consecrated because of the thousands upon thousands who were baptized in the same place in the two millenia following. I think it is the latter.
In any case, I was moved when I first visited Appamatox about five years ago, and it was more than the history that struck me. As I considered this, I determined to go back and three years ago I did. I was alone this time and spent an afternoon retracing the steps of the surrendering soldiers, reading personal histories and more. The Civil War is a terribly tragic episode in American history. General Grant in particular, a fearless and intelligent warrior, understood what the Confederate troops needed once the surrender decree was signed. He offered them food vouchers and safe passage home. The war was done.
There is one central road in the area where the Union and Confederate soldiers met and layed down their arms. To stand on that road and imagine the battle weary, scarred, and exhausted men lay down their rifles and begin their long walk home evokes a sense that the history that happened here reaches beyond the recall of the event into a place where deep suffering sets this site apart from others — even the sites that witnessed events as great as the surrender of perhaps even greater. It has something to do with the sanctity of suffering, like those small memorials you still see in Europe in places where the Nazi’s hauled small groups of civilians and shot them.
From: American Minute
The Civil War ended this day, April 9, 1865, as General Robert E. Lee surrendered at the courthouse of Appomattox, Virginia. The War had resulted in approximately 258,000 Confederate deaths and 360,000 Union deaths. General Lee took off his sword and handed it to General Grant, and Grant handed it back.
The next day, General Lee issued his final order: “After four years of arduous service, marked by unsurpassed courage and fortitude…. I have 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.”
Robert E. Lee concluded:
“I earnestly pray that a merciful God will extend to you His blessing and protection.”