My Grandfather’s Grandfather

by Andrew Forrest

The Civil War ended exactly 150 years ago today, April 9 1865, and my grandfather’s grandfather was there.

In the Living Room of Wilmer McLean

After an early morning skirmish revealed that the Confederate army had no options but to surrender, General Robert E. Lee, the commanding general of the Army of Northern Virginia, said this to one of his officers: “There is nothing left for me to do but to go and see General Grant, and I would rather die a thousand deaths.”

Lee and Grant met in the brick house of one Wilmer McLean, who, having lived in Manassas Junction during the first battle of the Civil War, the First Battle of Bull Run, had retired to Appomattox, only for the war to end in his parlor.

The Civil War ended in the home of Wilber McLean.

The Civil War ended in the home of Wilber McLean.

In his memoirs, Grant records what happened next:

When news of the surrender first reached our lines our men commenced firing a salute of a hundred guns in honor of the victory. I at once sent word, however, to have it stopped. The Confederates were now our prisoners, and we did not want to exult over their downfall.”

Personal Memoirs of U.S. Grant,?Chapter LXVII

The Terms of Surrender

The terms of the surrender were very generous and allowed the Confederate soldiers, their officers having sworn that they would not take up arms again against the Union, to leave for home almost immediately. In his memoirs, Grant explains what he was thinking when he was drawing up the terms of surrender with General Lee:

I then said to [General Lee] that I thought this would be about the last battle of the war–I sincerely hoped so; and I said further I took it that most of the men in the ranks were small farmers. The whole country had been so raided by the two armies that it was doubtful whether they would be able to put in a crop to carry themselves and their families through the next winter without the aid of the horses they were riding. The United States did not want them and I would, therefore, instruct the officers I left behind to receive the paroles of his troops to let every man of the Confederate army who claimed to own a horse or mule to take the animal to his home. Lee remarked again that this would have a happy effect.”

The Young Man Who Walked Home from Appomattox

My grandfather’s grandfather, a Confederate private in Lee’s army, was there in Appomattox when the war came to an end, and being in the infantry and so having no horse or mule, walked home from Appomattox. He lived to be a very old man, and when I was a small boy I loved to hear my grandfather tell us stories about the young man who walked home from Appomattox.

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7 comments

Paul Ditto April 9, 2015 - 12:56 pm

I read that combat deaths from the Civil War were (until recently) estimated at just over 600,000, but that new estimates pegged it at 650,000-850,000. In checking other websites, it appears this is more combat deaths than all our other wars added together (depending on how you define a “combat” or “battlefield” death). This is a quote from one the websites. “In its first 100 years of existence [referring to the U.S.], over 683,000 Americans lost their lives [in combat], with the Civil War accounting for 623,000 of the total (obviously using the old estimates). Comparatively, the next 100 years, a total of 626,000 American died [on the battlefield] through two World Wars and several regional conflicts”. It had to have had a devastating effect on both the north and south (the number of deaths just being one of the negative effects). Combat casualties in the Civil War amounted to about 2.0% of the U.S. population at the time. That may not seem high to you until you realize that since then, WWII was the next highest by percentage of the population at only 0.3%

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Andrew Forrest April 9, 2015 - 2:00 pm

And think of the ferocity of the battles? Just an horrific event. Right here in America, you know?

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Chris April 9, 2015 - 2:20 pm

Excellent piece of history! We can learn so much from knowledge passed down from generation to generation.

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linda clemens April 9, 2015 - 2:46 pm

Enjoyed this article. Do you know about the last battle of the Civil War in May 1865 in south Texas? See the link below.

My mother’s grandfather was 5 years old at the time but he remembered when the Yankees came to their plantation to free the slaves. The slaves all hid because they thought the soldiers were there to kill them. Because they were all so scared he had vivid memories. This was in Brazos Co. Texas.

http://www.civilwar.org/battlefields/palmito-ranch.html

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Andrew Forrest April 9, 2015 - 3:00 pm

How sad to be the last one killed in a war.

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Shelby May 10, 2015 - 7:59 pm

My Grandfather’s Grandfather wasn’t there, but he did fight in the civil war. The name he used AFTER the war was ANDREW FORREST~! He was supposedly born in 1842 South Carolina (acc. to death Cert. and several Census) 1870 Census he says he’s a shoe maker from Illinois. From 1870 to 1907, when he died, he used the name Andrew Forrest. BUT In 1890 ~ Surviving Soldiers and Widows Schedule he had an Alias of Alexander C Matheson. so from that I know he was in the Civil War, so i went to military Records. Enlisted in Taylorsville, NC and says he was born in N.C. The Confederates listed him as Killed at the battle of Gettysburg, but the Union picked him up and he was put in POW Prison in Fort Delaware, then joined the Maryland Calvary as Trumpeter. Prior to 1870 Census there is NO listing of him or his parents. This may not be the place to post this… but are you related to us?

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Andrew Forrest May 11, 2015 - 10:20 am

Shelby,

Thanks for writing. As far as I know, my forebears are all from Virginia, so I doubt we are closely related. What a cool connection, though.

Andrew

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