Battle of Appomattox Court House

Robert E. Lee, Confederate General
Robert E. Lee, Confederate General. Courtesy of Library of Congress, Prints & Photographs Division, LC-B8172-0001 DLC

Dates:

April 9, 1865

Other Names:

None.

Location:

Appomattox County, Virginia

Key Individuals Involved in the Battle of Appomattox Court House:

Union: Lt. General Ulysses S. Grant
Confederate: General Robert E. Lee

Outcome:

Union Victory. 700 Casualties.

Significance of the Battle of Appomattox Court House:

This was the final major engagement of the Civil War. General Lee surrendered to General Grant and the American Civil War came to an end.

However, some fighting did continue to occur until mid-May, 1865. 

Overview of the Battle:

Before dawn on April 9, 1865, about 9,000 Confederate soldiers serving under John Brown Gordon and William Henry Fitzhugh Lee deployed west of Appomattox in the fields to wait and attack the Union army.  This was the remnants of Gordon's corps and Fitzhugh Lee's cavalry. General Robert E. Lee was determined to make a last stand in order to escape the Union forces closing in and reach the Confederate supply line at Lynchburg, Virginia. On the other hand, General Ulysses S. Grant's goal was to completely cut off and destroy the Confederate army. 

The Confederates launched their attack in the early morning before 8 AM. The attack was spearheaded by General Bryan Grimes of North Carolina and met with initial success, gaining ground against Philip Sheridan's Union cavalry. The Union solders were outnumbered and fell back, which temporarily opened the road.

However, this victory was short lived. Union infantry arrived on the scene from both the west and the south. General Lee's troops were then surrounded on three sides. 

Three miles east of Appomattox, General James Longstreet's troops were being hemmed in from behind near New Hope Church. Lee realized that his defeat was close at hand, so he ordered his troops to retreat back across the Appomattox River.

Localized fighting continued. However, between 10 and 11 AM, the Confederate leaders sent out flags of truce to the Union forces. Lee realized that continued fighting would lead to the loss of many lives for no gain. Therefore, his only course of action was to surrender his Army of Northern Virginia. 

Lee's surrender was the key to ending the war, however, it was not the official end of fighting. The confederate troops at Appomattox were actually able to return from their home and the Union troops were required to keep any celebration to a minimum. This was in keeping with Abraham Lincoln's assertion that the states had not seceded but instead were in a state of rebellion and the only course forward was leniency in order to preserve the union. 

In the end a formal peace treaty was never signed. Small pockets of fighting occurred over the course of the next month. Most historians agree that the last battle of the Civil War occurred on May 12-13, 1865 in southern Texas. 

Source: CWSAC Battle Summaries