I am taking a break from losing the battle to Typography to wish everyone a happy Appomattox Day!
Question: What is Appomattox Day?
Answer: The day on which Robert E Lee surrendered the Army of Northern Virginia to General Grant’s forces at Appomattox court house in Appomattox county in Virginia.
One hundred and forty-nine years ago today, Gen’l Lee saw the writing on the wall and surrendered, after being pursued relentlessly by Grant for months. (This is very broad and specific because I’m actually in a rush but had to post this today.) He wasn’t beaten in spirit but he was realistic enough to know that Grant’s access to resources and reinforcements was better than his own.
This day is fun for me because it features many of my favorite characters. Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain oversaw the surrender and stacking of arms of the Confederates, made memorable by his salute. The surrender was drafted and signed in the front parlor of the house belonging to Wilmer McLean, the poor grocer who had lived in Manassas but went south to escape the war and bought the very house in which the war concluded. Winfield Scott Hancock wasn’t involved but I had to mention him. Regarding my friends the Federal Generals Corps, I’ll bet my bottom dollar that Sherman will be at Appomattox next year. This day was alluded to in the movie Lincoln, with the farbiest Robert E Lee I’ve seen, so farby that I cracked up laughing in the theater full of people my grandparents’ age and they stared at me because it was a serious moment. I remember reading the American Girls book Happy Birthday Addy as a kid and realizing that April 9 was the day the Civil War ended, although at the time I had no concept of the events leading up to Appomattox, or how to spell it. (If you didn’t know, Addy’s story is about a young slave girl in the south whose family is separated when her father and brother get sold and she and her mother escape on the Underground Railroad, and then learning to live as freepeople in the north while facing prejudices, all written for 9-year-old girls.)
Also about this day – not quite one hundred and forty nine years ago, I was put on this earth to the joy of many and consternation of a few. On this day, I like to celebrate my birth, the Confederacy’s death, and the restoration of the Union, although the latter two weren’t nearly as clean cut or straightforward as the former (to my knowledge).
So on this day, I get Lawrence, Union victorious AND birthday cake?? Yes please.
And so concludes my post. To read a Thing about this day, click here. Written by Lawrence, it’s full of high Victorian prose and yet raises some interesting points about the windup and conclusion of hostilities in Northern Virginia (the official last battle would take place that following summer in … Louisiana?)
Good game, South, but let’s not do that again, okay?