General Robert E. Lee’s order of surrender to the Army of Northern Virginia was written and issued on April 10, 1865, the day after his meeting at Wilmer McLean’s house in Appomattox Court House, Virginia, with General Ulysses S. Grant. It was where the terms of surrender had been agreed upon to effectively end the American Civil War. In this brief and eloquent farewell, Lee addressed the men who fought under his command and wrote, “I need not tell the survivors of so many hard fought battles, who have remained steadfast to the last, that I have consented to this result from no distrust of them. But feeling that valor and devotion could accomplish nothing that would compensate for the loss that must have attended the continuation of the contest, I determined to avoid the useless sacrifice.”
Lee dictated the order to his aide-de-camp, Colonel Charles Marshall, who later recounted, “I sat in the ambulance until I had written the order . . . (in pencil). . . . He made one or two verbal changes, and then I made a copy of the order as corrected, and gave it to one of the clerks . . . to write in ink. I took the copy . . . to [Lee], who signed it, and other copies were then made for transmission to the corps commanders and the staff of the army. All these copies were signed by the general, and a good many persons sent other copies, which they had made or procured, and obtained his signature.”
The document offered in Freeman’s October 16th Books and Manuscript sale was signed by Lee in April of 1865 for his close friend, Joseph Reid Anderson of Richmond, Virginia, who served as a brigadier general in the Confederate Army. Anderson was also the owner of the Tredegar Iron Works—the largest supplier of iron goods to the Confederate government— which provided the armor plating and machinery for the ironclad warship, C.S.S. Virginia, also known as the Merrimack, of Monitor and Merrimack fame.
Written as “General Order No.9,” this manuscript passed through several generations of Brigadier Anderson’s descendants and today speaks to us of more than mere flags in the dust, but also of the profound depth of connection found in friendship, as well as the physical and moral courage of a soldier’s compassion.
This letter sold for $81,250 at the 16 October 2014 auction of Books, Maps & Manuscripts.