Unity: April 10, 1865 – 2015

appomattox

April 10 – 1865 / 2015

People who know their Civil War history recall that Robert E. Lee surrendered to Ulysses S. Grant when they met in the parlor of the McLean House near the village of Appomattox Courthouse in Western Virginia the morning of April 9, 1865.

Less known is the story of their second ‘interview’ the following morning.

Grant knew that Lee only had the authority to surrendered his own defeated Army of Northern Virginia, which had been the primary military force of the Confederacy.  Lee did not have the authority to surrender any of the other armies still in the field or, for that matter, the Confederacy itself. 

The morning of April 10, 1865, Grant summoned Lee to a second meeting.  They met on horseback for roughly a half hour, on a ridge surrounded by the mist of a cool spring morning.  Grant urged Lee to use his influence on the other generals to likewise surrender and put down their arms. 

That moment was recreated – at the exact time, in the exact spot, and under very similar conditions – 150 years later as part of the Civil War Sesquicentennial.  

I spent a fair amount of time over those four years working with @Thomm Jutz @Peter Cronin and @Karen Cronin and many of Nashville’s finest singers and songwriters on “The 1861 Project” – a collection of three CDs of original recordings about the Civil War. 

I did all the photography for that project, and went to several re-enactments over those years – Fort Donelson and Bull Run (among others), and finally Appomattox.  I had hoped to photograph the recreation of Lee’s surrender and perhaps recreate the paintings that have survived that period, but alas, that task fell to a photographer sanctioned by the US Parks Department. 

But somehow, I managed to get myself in the right place at the right time for the re-enactment of that second encounter, and got this shot, which I still consider one of the defining moments of the Civil War Sesquicentennial. In post-processing I have rendered the original as a ‘digital tintype’ – a type of photography that was popular in the 19th century. 

I submitted the photo to the Parks Department to consider for merchandising at the gift shop at the Appomattox Courthouse National Park.  

A few weeks later I got their reply:  “The horses are too fat.” Jeezus. 

If the horses aren’t too fat for you, you can order prints – and read the rest of the story – from this website.

Or visit Spotify to listen to the recordings from The 1861 Project:

And see the rest of the photography here:

 



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Paul Schatzkin