The Surrender Site ... Then and Now
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. For them it was an ending, but for the nation it was a new beginning. Today, the National Park Service, which manages this historical park, invites you to walk the old country lanes where these events took place and in the quietness and stillness imagine the activity of those April days of 1865.
Grant and Lee
Park programs show how the war affected the people of the village and how they lived from day to day. Begin your visit at the visitor center in the reconstructed courthouse, which contains an information desk, a museum, and an auditorium where videos are presented. Service animals are welcome.
The official surrender documents were prepared by Lt. Col. Charles Marshall of Lee's staff and Lt. Col. Ely S. Parker of Grant's. They appear at the far left in Keith Rocco's painting of the surrender. Also shown, standing directly behind Grant, is Cap. Robert Todd Lincoln, son of President Abraham Lincoln and a junior-member of Grant's military family.
End of the War
Despite the county's overwhelmingly agricultural character, the people needed a place to conduct legal affairs, buy the few items they did not grow or make, and meet neighbors. Appomattox Court House filled these needs.
Some lawyers opened offices around the courthouse. Two of the county's dozen stores were in the small village. Meeks Store, the largest, doubled as post office. Francis Meeks' son Lafayette served in the Confederate army, died of typhoid, and was buried here. The village and county prospered in the 1850s. The war would change all this.
Creating A Park
After the surrender ceremony the troops went away and the war ended, but Appomattox Court House had been changed. In many ways the village was worse off. No large battle had taken place here; neither side rushed in to erect monuments as they did on many other battlefields of the war. Locally the village became a backwater as Appomattox Station, just to the west, prospered because of its position on the railroad. In the late 1880s Union veterans formed the Appomattox Land Company. They hoped to develop the area by selling lots and building houses, but their plans never really left the drawing board. In 1892 the courthouse burned and the county seat was moved to Appomattox, formerly Appomattox Station. And in early 1893 a Niagara Falls, N.Y., company had the McLean House dismantled with the hope of taking it to Washington, D.C., as a war museum. But the piles of bricks and lumber were never moved. Exposed to the elements, they eventually disappeared. The little village was either going up in smoke or crumbling into dust.
In 1930, Congress passed a bill that provided for building a monument at the site of the old courthouse. The monument was never built, but the idea of memorializing the event stayed alive. In 1934-35 the National Park Service suggested that the entire village be restored. The idea was received enthusiastically.
Legislation creating the park as a national historical monument was signed in 1935, and work began on acquiring land and researching the records. The project resumed at the end of World War II; in 1954, the area was redesignated Appomattox Court House National Historical Park. Today the village looks much as it did in April 1865.
Outside the village are a few spots associated with the events of the surrender. Lee's headquarters site is northeast of the village. It is a two-minute walk from a small parking lot on Va. 24. Grant's headquarters site is in the opposite direction from the village. Nearby, a monument erected by the state of North Carolina marks the farthest advance of its troops that April day.
West of the village a small Confederate cemetery holds the graves of one Northern soldier and 18 Southern soldiers killed on April 8 and 9. A hiking trail and the highway connect all of these locations.
Touring the Village
Start at the visitor center, where museum exhibits, video programs, seasonal talks, map orientations, and restrooms are available. All the sites are within easy walking distance but require travel on gravel and grass surfaces. Most buildings are over 150 years old and require steps for entry. Wheelchairs are available at the visitor center. The official National Park Service handbook, covering many aspects of Lee's retreat, the surrender, and the history of the village, is available along with other publications at the park bookstore.
Note: Firearms are prohibited in the following buildings: Visitor Center, McLean House, Clover Hill Tavern, and Bookstore.
Woodson Law Office
Clover Hill Tavern
Appomattox County Courthouse
Appomattox County Jail
Jones Law Office
Mariah Wright House
Stacking of Arms
Source: NPS Brochure (2014)
Brochures ◆ Site Bulletins ◆ Trading Cards
A Brief History of Appomattox Court House National Historical Park (Hubert A. Gurney, February 1955)
Biography of Wilmer McLean, Appomattox Court House National Historical Park, Virginia (Frank P. Cauble, October 31, 1969)
Cultural Landscape Report for Appomattox Court House National Historical Park, Volume II: Treatment Implementation Plan (Jeffrey Killion, Sara Sanchez, Kristi Lin, Margie Coffin Brown, Eliot Foulds, 2018)
Geologic Resources Inventory Report, Appomattox Court House National Historical Park NPS Natural Resource Report NPS/NRPC/GRD/NRR-2009/145 (T.L. Thornberry-Ehrlich, September 2009)
Historic Resource Study, Appomattox Court House National Historical Park (Robinson & Associates, Inc., August 28, 2002)
Historic Structure Report, Historic Data Section: Appomattox Courthouse, The "Sweeney Prizery" (Harlan D. Unrau, November 1981)
Inventory of Amphibians and Reptiles of Appomattox Court House National Historical Park NPS Technical Report NPS/NER/NRTR-2006/056 (Joseph C. Mitchell, September 2006)
National Register of Historic Places Nomination Form
Appomattox Court House (Jon B. Montgomery, Reed Engle and Clifford Tobias, May 8, 1989)
Natural Resource Condition Assessment, Appomattox Court House National Historical Park, Virginia NPS Natural Resource Report NPS/NER/NRR-2012/536 (Rebecca M. Schneider, Jessica L. Dorr, Aaron F. Teets, Eric D. Wolf and J. M. Galbraith, June 2012)
Survey of Mammals at Appomattox Court House National Historical Park NPS Technical Report NPS/NER/NRTR-2005/030 (J.F. Pagels, A.D. Chupp and A.M. Roder, December 2005)
The Significance of Appomattox (March 1941)
Handbooks ◆ Books
Last Updated: 02-Dec-2021