Monday, September 07, 2015


After our mountain tour we rode through the valley to Appomattox Court House National Historical Park.  Note here the three "highways"--river (to the right of the rails), railroad, and paved road.

Appamattox Court House (formerly Clover Hill) was originally a little settlement established around tavern stopping off point on the Richmond-Lynchburg Road.  When Appomattox County was formed, it was chosen for the county seat and received its new name.  Here, on April 9, 1865, Robert E. Lee, commanding general of the Army of Northern Virginia, surrendered his men to Ulysses S. Grant, general-in-chief of all United States forces.  Though several Confederate armies under different commanders remained in the field, Lee's surrender signaled the end of the Southern states' attempt to create a separate nation.  Three days later the men of the Army of Northern Virginia marched before the Union Army, laid down their flags, stacked their weapons, and then began the journey back to their homes.  

Most of the buildings no longer exist.  Of the ten of large buildings eight are original and two are rebuilt.  This building housed Meeks Store (general store and post office) in the rear and George Peers's office in the front.  Peers was clerk of the Appomattox County court for 40 years. (courthouse across the street).

Rebuilt Courthouse and present visitors' center and museum.  Here is a good place to understand what actually happened here.  From here you can view a short film, see a light-up display of the actual troop movements, view lots of original artifacts and take a 2 hour ranger-led tour of the village.

On display (on loan) is the original terms of surrender written by Grant.

Another way to gain insight  is to listen to costumed interpreters tell about their "personal experiences".  This young lady was a freed slave of  George Peers.  After she was freed she stayed on to help raise the youngest Peers child.  She relived the day the War finally came to town.

On any given day the number of interpreters varies.  This day we were treated to two.  This young man represented a Confederate soldier who had a farm nearby.  He told about how he was terrified that his family, friends, and home town were in mortal danger.

As we listened to the soldier, we were seated on the porch of the Clover Hill Tavern.  In the room on the left is where the paroles were printed (see below).

The (rebuilt) McLean House.  The actual surrender took place in the parlor of this house. which is located behind the near ground floor wall.

Parlor where the surrender took place.  The surrender terms allowed the officers to keep the weapons that defined their rank (such as swords) and all soldiers to keep their personally owned side arms and horses.  They were given printed "paroles" which allowed them to return home free of charge by whatever transportation available and to not be harassed by anyone.  In return they swore to never bear arms against the Federal government.

Parent's bedroom

Dining room  The McLeans were "important people" (they had money) and entertained often.

Compare the above to their slaves' quarters.  Entire families would live in one small room.

Jail  the lower floor housed the jailer, the four rooms above were separate cells.

Someone was grumpy and needed "time in"

Jones Law Office and home.  Crawford Jones was a farmer, lawyer, and local secessionist leader.  We lobbied aggressively for secession and war, then spent most of the war trying to stay out of the fighting.

Peers house, site of the last shots fired in the war.
The army was encamped behind this house.  When they surrendered they marched up the road (at the left end) stacking arms (rifles, bayonets and ammunition) from here, between the courthouse and the Tavern, and past the McLean House at the other end of town (about a mile total).  Our visit to Appomattox Court House was a real eye-opener.  We expected to tour another living history museum but found very few of the buildings were open for viewing.  We did, however, come away with a better understanding of the horror and heartbreak of the Civil War (and any war) on a very personal level.

Enough for now.

Louise and Duane

1 comment:

Paul and Marsha Weaver OCT. 17, 2009 said...

Great tour. I love hearing about history from interpreters. Makes me feel like I lived during that time.