On This Day, April 9, 1965 – Lee Surrenders the Army of the Confederacy

Robert E. Lee

1865 – At Appomattox, Virginia, Confederate General Robert E. Lee surrenders his 28,000 troops to Union General Ulysses S. Grant, effectively ending the American Civil War. Forced to abandon the Confederate capital of Richmond, blocked from joining the surviving Confederate force in North Carolina, and harassed constantly by Union cavalry, Lee had no other option.

In retreating from the Union army’s Appomattox Campaign, the Army of Northern Virginia had stumbled through the Virginia countryside stripped of food and supplies. At one point, Union cavalry forces under General Philip Sheridan had actually outrun Lee’s army, blocking their retreat and taking 6,000 prisoners at Sayler’s Creek. Desertions were mounting daily, and by April 8 the Confederates were surrounded with no possibility of escape. On April 9, Lee sent a message to Grant announcing his willingness to surrender. The two generals met in the parlor of the Wilmer McLean home at one o’clock in the afternoon.

Lee and Grant, both holding the highest rank in their respective armies, had known each other slightly during the Mexican War and exchanged awkward personal inquiries. Characteristically, Grant arrived in his muddy field uniform while Lee had turned out in full dress attire, complete with sash and sword. Lee asked for the terms, and Grant hurriedly wrote them out. All officers and men were to be pardoned, and they would be sent home with their private property–most important, the horses, which could be used for a late spring planting. Officers would keep their side arms, and Lee’s starving men would be given Union rations.

Shushing a band that had begun to play in celebration, General Grant told his officers, “The war is over. The Rebels are our countrymen again.” Although scattered resistance continued for several weeks, for all practical purposes the Civil War had come to an end.

0715 – Constantine ended his reign as Catholic Pope.

1667 – In Paris, The first public art exhibition was held at the Palais-Royale.

1682 – Robert La Salle claimed the lower Mississippi River and all lands that touch it for France.

1770 – Captain James Cook discovered Botany Bay on the Australian continent.

1833 – Peterborough, NH, opened the first municipally supported public library in the United States.

1838 – The National Galley opened in London.

1866 – The Civil Rights Bill passed over U.S. President Andrew Johnson’s veto.

1867 – The U.S. Senate ratified the treaty with Russia that purchased the territory of Alaska by one vote.

1869 – The Hudson Bay Company ceded its territory to Canada.

1905 – The first aerial ferry bridge went into operation in Duluth, MN.

1912 – The first exhibition baseball game was held at Fenway Park in Boston. The game was between Red Sox and Harvard.

1913 – The Brooklyn Dodgers’ Ebbets Field opened.

1928 – Mae West made her debut on Broadway in the production of “Diamond Lil.”

1940 – Germany invaded Norway and Denmark.

1942 – In the Battle of Bataan, American and Filipino forces were overwhelmed by the Japanese Army.

1945 – National Football League officials decreed that it was mandatory for football players to wear socks in all league games.

1947 – 169 people were killed and 1,300 were injured by a series of tornadoes in Texas, Oklahoma and Kansas.

1950 – Bob Hope made his first television appearance on “Star-Spangled Review” on NBC-TV.

1957 – The Suez Canal was cleared for all shipping.


1959 – The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) introduces America’s first astronauts to the press: Scott Carpenter, L. Gordon Cooper Jr., John H. Glenn Jr., Virgil “Gus” Grissom, Walter Schirra Jr., Alan Shepard Jr., and Donald Slayton. The seven men, all military test pilots, were carefully selected from a group of 32 candidates to take part in Project Mercury, America’s first manned space program. NASA planned to begin manned orbital flights in 1961.

1963 – Winston Churchill became the first honorary U.S. citizen.

1965 – “TIME” magazine featured a cover with the entire “Peanuts” comic gang.

1965 – The Houston Astrodome held its first baseball game.

1967 – The first Boeing 737 was rolled out for use.

1968 – Murdered civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr., was buried.

1981 – The U.S. Submarine George Washington struck and sunk a small Japanese freighter in the East China Sea. The Nissho Maru’s captain and first mate died.

1983 – The space shuttle Challenger concluded it first flight.

1992 – Former Panamanian ruler Manuel Noriega was convicted in Miami, FL, of eight drug and racketeering charges.

1998 – The National Prisoner of War Museum opened in Andersonville, GA, at the site of an infamous Civil War camp.

1998 – More than 150 Muslims died in stampede in Mecca, Saudi Arabia, on last day of the haj pilgrimage.

Source: On-This-Day.com; History.com