(from Civil war.org)
April 12 was the appointed day for the formal surrender of the last and largest component of the Army of Northern Virginia, the infantry.
Before leaving Appomattox, U.S. Grant appointed General Joshua Chamberlain of Maine to receive the surrender on behalf of the Union army giving him instruction that "the ceremony to be as simple as possible, and that nothing should be done to humiliate the manhood of the Southern soldiers".
Chamberlain, one of the many heroes of Gettysburg (for others see The Last Full Measure and Forgotten Americans: George Sears Green), received a battlefield promotion to General at Petersburg in June 1864 after receiving a wound that was thought to be fatal. It did indeed prove so, but not until 1914 when he suffered an infection related to the wound and was treated by the same doctor who had saved his life fifty years before (for more on Chamberlain's life see In Great Deeds Something Abides).
To conduct the Confederate surrender Lee selected General John B Gordon of Georgia, one of his best division commanders (and later to be Senator and Governor in Georgia, along with possibly being one of the leaders of the newly-formed Klu Klux Klan).
The final ceremony began at 6 A.M. and it took nearly ten hours for all the Confederates to march by and stack arms. Let's listen to the glorious 19th century prose of General Chamberlain, which made him such a popular commemoration speaker for decades, describing the surrender (from Bayonet! Forward):
It was now the morning of the 12th of April . . .(Joshua Chamberlain)
We formed . . . to face the last line of battle, and receive the last remnant of the arms and colors of that great army ours had been created to confront for all that death can do to life. We were remnants also . . . veterans, and replaced veterans; cut to pieces, cut down, consolidated, divisions into brigades . . . men of near blood born, made nearer by blood shed. Those facing us - now thank God, the same.
Our earnest eyes scan the busy groups on the opposite slopes, breaking camp for the last time - taking down their little shelter-tents and folding them carefully, as precious things, then slowly forming ranks as for unwelcome duty. And now they move. The dusky swarms forge forward into gray columns of march. On they come, with the old swinging route step, and swaying battle-flags.
. . . when the head of each division column comes opposite our group, our bugle sounds the signal and instantly our whole line from right to left, regiment by regiment in succession, gives the soldier's salutation, - from the "order arms" to the old "carry" - the marching salute. Gordon at the head of the column, riding with heavy spirit and downcast face, catches the sounds of shifting arms, looks up, and, taking the meaning, wheels superbly, making with himself and his horse one uplifted figure, with profound salutation as he drops the point of his sword to the boot toe; then facing to his own command, gives word for his successive brigades to pass us with the same position of manual, honor answering honor. On our part not a sound of trumpet more, nor roll of drum; not a cheer, nor word nor whisper of vain-glorying, nor motion of man standing again at the order; but an awed stillness rather and breath-holding as if it were the passing of the dead!
Now, it needs to be noted that Chamberlain was a renowned speaker for decades after the war and many of his stories grew in the repeated tellings. The specifics of the gallantry of the surrender ceremony were, in reality, exaggerated in his tale but it's still a good story and in full accord with The Official Policy Of This Blog.
In Calkins' The Appomattox Campaign he quotes a Southern soldier:
We suffered no insult in any way from any of our enemies. No other army in the world would have been so considerate of a foe that it had taken so long, so much privation, so much sacrifice of human life, to overwhelm.EP Alexander left Appomattox that morning, riding to Richmond with a mixed group of Confederate and Union officers, including a United States Senator from Illinois. Returning to his home in Georgia, he took a job teaching mathematics at the University of South Carolina before becoming a railroad executive. Alexander became friends with President Grover Cleveland who in 1897 appointed him as arbiter in a boundary dispute between Nicaragua and Costa Rica which led to him living in Nicaragua for two years.
Returning to the U.S. he published the well-regarded Military Memoirs of a Confederate (1907), an academic-style work of military history and analysis, and lectured at West Point before dying in 1910.
It was only decades later that historians researching his personal papers housed at the University of North Carolina realized that during his time in Central America, Alexander had written a much more personal and critical history of the Army of Northern Virginia, which was embedded in scattered form among his papers. Reassembling and editing these paper took some time and Fighting For The Confederacy: The Personal Recollections of General Edward Porter Alexander was not published until 1989. It is unusual among general officer memoirs of the Civil War in that it provides full and balanced portraits of the principals, even criticizing Robert E Lee, a man held in the highest esteem by Alexander. Along with Grant's Personal Memoirs it represents the best of such writing.
Joshua Chamberlain later wrote of watching the remaining Confederates break camp the next morning:
. . . the morning of the 13th, we could see the men, singly or in squads, making their way slowly into the distance, in whichever direction was nearest home, and by nightfall we were left there at Appomattox Courthouse lonesome and alone.It was over.