On this day in 1865, at Appomattox Court House, General Robert E. Lee surrendered the Army of Northern Virginia to Ulysses S. Grant, general-in-chief of all United States forces. The surrender didn’t end the Civil War. It took several more months, and the death of President Lincoln, before the fighting ended completely, after 600,000 men had been killed.
A Virginia Girl in the Civil War, 1861-1865 is told from the point of view of a wife of a Confederate soldier, but this excerpt, which I found initially via the Library of Congress, struck me as particularly poignant. And universal.
The author has been waiting for several days, with increasing panic, for her husband to return from the war.
~~~Do you know how it is to feel in your sleep that some one is looking at you? This is the sort of sensation that aroused me the next morning, and I opened my eyes in the early dawn to find my husband standing by the bed with clasped hands looking down at me.
Ah, we were happy—we were happy! Ragged, defeated, broken, we but had each other and that was enough.
...We are prosperous now, our heads are nearly white; little grandchildren cluster about us and listen with interest to grandpapa's and grandmamma's tales of the days when they "fought and bled and died together." They can't understand how such nice people as the Yankees and ourselves ever could have fought each other. "It doesn't seem reasonable," says Nellie the third, who is engaged to a gentleman from Boston, where we sent her to cultivate her musical talents, but where she applied herself to other matters, 'it doesn't seem reasonable, grandmamma, when you could just as easily have settled it all comfortably without any fighting. How glad I am I wasn't living then! How thankful I am that 'Old Glory' floats alike over North and South, now!'
And so am I, my darling, so am I!
~~~—A Virginia Girl in the Civil War, 1861-1865: Being a Record of the Actual Experiences of the Wife of a Confederate Officer.
Photographs courtesy Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division Washington, D.C. 20540 USA.
Above: Unidentified young soldier in Union uniform with musket, bayonet, and knapsack.
Below: Unidentified soldier in Confederate uniform