Babcock saluted, and Grant nodded, returned it with reflex. Then he straightened, removed his hat, stepped slowly into the room. He could not help but stare at the calm dignity, the grace, of the man in the gray uniform facing him, straight and tall, the white beard not quite hiding the firm jaw, the dark weariness in the man's eyes.
Babcock said quietly, "Sir... General Grant, may I present... General Robert E. Lee."
Grant made a short bow, and Lee's expression did not change. Grant realized how well Lee was dressedm saw the red silk, the extraordinary sword. There was a quiet moment, and Grant felt something odd, something he did not expect, thought, How difficult this must be. What would this be like if it were me?
He moved closer, held out a hand, said, "General Lee, thank you for meeting with me."
Lee did not smile, took the hand, a brief firm grip, said, General Grant, it is my duty... to be here."
...The room was quiet again, the officers now still, and Grant began to realize what he was wearing. He glanced down, saw the mud on the boots, the dust on his clothes, was suddenly embaressed, wanted to say something, realized he still held the cigar in his teeth. He slowly raised his hand, rmoved the cigar, said "I hope you will forgive my appearance. I have ridden all morning to get here. There has not been time to change... I'm not even certain where my tunk is, at the moment." He tried to be casual, relieve the tension, the quiet strain in the room, but no one spoke.
Lee simply nodded, said, "Quite all right, sir."
Grant could not take his eyes from Lee now, began to feel a growing sadness, did not know what to expect, thought, How would we ever know? We will never be in this position again. Lee's face was still hard, firm, and Grant looked for something, some sign, but could see now, thought, No he will give nothing, he is holding it all in.
... Lee looked to the side, focused on a small oval table. "Perhaps, General, we should discuss the matter at had. I have come to meet you in accordance of my letter this morning to treat about the surrender of my army. I think the best way would be for you to put your terms in writing.
Grant nodded, scanned the faces, saw Ely Parker, his secretary, a pad of paper, an order book emerging from the young man's blue coat... He moved to a small table, sat, put the cigar in his mouth, stared at the blank paper in front of him.
... He suddenly began to write, did not think, felt his mind pouring out on the pages. He kept writing, the only sound in the room the scratcing of pencil on paper. He paused again, saw Lee quietly moving across the room, sitting now at the oval table. Lee's sword bumped the floor, and Grant stared at it, thought, Yes, there will be none of that, the stuff of newspaper stories, the rediculous dramatics of handing over swords. He wrote again, another page, then stopped.
...Grant put the book down flat, took a deep breath. Then he stood, with the book, moved across the room and handed it to Lee. ...Grant stepped away, nervous again, felt like a student, his words put before the grim judgment of the professor. He scolded himself, It's fine, it's simple, and it's what I want. He is taking his time, of course, give him a moment.
Lee now raised the book slightly off the table, and read.
Headquarters, Armies of the United States
Appomattox Court House,
Va., April 9, 1865
General R.E. Lee, Commanding C.S. Army
In accordance with the substance of my letter to you on the 8th instant, I propose to recieve the surrender of the Army of Northern Virginia on the following terms, to wit: Rolls of all the officers and men to be made in duplicate - one copy to be given to an officer to be designated by me, the other to be retained but such officer or officers as you may designate; the officer to give thier individual paroles not to take up arms agains the Government of the United States until properly exchanged, and each company or regimental commander to sign a like parole for the men under his command. The arms, artillery and public property are to be packed and stacked, and turned over to the officer appointed by me to recieve them. This will not embrace the side-arms of the officers, nor thier private horses or baggage. This done, officers and men will be allowed to return to thier homes, not to be disturbed by United States authority so long as they observe their paroles and the laws in force where they reside.
U.S. Grant, Lieutenant - General
Lee nodded slowly, said, "Your concern for the dignity of the officers, their private property... this will have a positive effect on the army."
...Lee handed the book to Grant, who turned, gave it to Parker and said, "Colonel, you may copy this in ink."
...Grant reached for a chair, pulled it closer to Lee, sat now, said quietly, "General... I am aware of the lack of supply... of the difficult situation your men may be in. May I offer to assist?"
Lee straightened in the chair, nodded slowly...
"If I may ask, General, how many rations would you require?"
Lee shook his head, and Grant saw the eyes close. Lee said, "I am not entirely certain. Twenty-five thousand perhaps."
Grant turned, looked at Sheridan, said, "General, can you produce twenty-five thousand rations to General Lee's men?"
Sheridan seemed surprised, said..."Uh... yes, sir. It is not a problem. We will make the arrangements."
Grant said nothing, turned to Lee, and Lee now looked up at Marshall, who still stood close behind him. Lee said, "Colonel, you may prepare a response to General Grant's letter."
Marshall wrote, and Lee scanned the letter, then slowly handed it to Grant.
Headquarters, Army of Northern Virginia
April 9, 1865
Lieut.-Gen. U.S. Grant,
Commanding Armies of the United States
I have received your letter of this date containing the terms of surrender of the Army of Northern Virginia as proposed by you. As they are substantially the same as those expressed in the letter of the 8th instant, they are accepted. I will proceed to designate the proper officers to carry out the stipulations into effect.
Very Respectfully, your obedient servant,
R.E. Lee, General
...Grant looked back at Parker, who handed him the permanent letter, and Grant read it carefully, leaned down, took the pen from his secretary and signed his name. He moved across the room, handed the letter to Lee. Lee now took Marhsall's letter, read it again. Grant watched Lee, saw Lee staring at the letter but not reading, was staring beyond, past the page, perhaps past this room, in this simple house, out past all the men and guns and horror of the past four years. Grant waited, would say nothing, felt the sadness coming again, the room bery quiet now, the men understanding what was happening, what this moment meant.
Lee blinked hard, took a pen from Marshall, read the letter one more time, the acceptance of the terms, the surrender of the army. Grant saw the paper shake slightly, saw Lee clench his fist, then slowly Lee signed his name.
~ taken from The Last Full Measure, by Jeff Shaara.