Today, kids, Cohesion Arts has a history lesson for you:
On April 9, 1865, Union General Ulysses S. Grant accepted the surrender of Confederate General Robert E. Lee in the drawing room of a house near the village of Appomattox Court House in western Virgnia. There are no actual photographs of this historic occasion, though most people familiar with the history have probably seen artistic renderings like this one:
For most people who know a little American history, this is presumed to be the moment that marked the end of the American Civil War.
What most people don’t know is that there were two meetings between Grant and Lee. The second took place the following morning – April 10, 1865 – 155 years ago today.
When Lee surrendered to Grant on April 9th, Lee had only the authority to surrender his own Army of Northern Virginia. He did not have the authority to surrender the rest of the Confederacy, or the other armies that remained in the field.
Realizing that the war was not yet fully over despite Lee’s surrender, Grant summoned Lee to a second meeting. At this second “interview,” Grant implored Lee to use his considerable influence over the other generals to likewise surrender. They met for roughly 30 minutes, first doffing their hats to each other, then shaking hands, but never leaving their horses.
Once contacted, the other generals complied and the war was, within a few days, effectively over.
From late 2010 until mid 2015, I was privileged to be part of “The 186 Project” – a musical commemoration of the Civil War Sesquicentennial produced by Americana songwriter and guitarist Thomm Jutz. I formed a partnership with Thomm and songwriter Peter Cronin, and acted as an Executive Producer on the project. Thomm and Peter did most of the songwriting along with a host of some of Nashville’s finest, and I did all the photography for the cover art and inserts for the three CDs the project delivered between 2011 and 2014.
I did not get to enter the McLean House, where Lee’s surrender was re-enacted the morning of April 9. That plumb assignment went to a photographer working with the National Park Service.
But the following morning, I did manage to get myself into the catbird seat for the re-enactment of that ‘second interview’. I ignored the NPS ropes and pushed my way through to a small rise, across the road from the ridge where my friend Curt Fields, portraying General Grant, and Thomas Jessee, portraying General Lee, met: at the exact same spot, and at the exact same time that their predecessors had met 150 years earlier.
I was the only photographer at that vantage point, and I believe that I shot the defining photo of the Civil War Sesquicentennial.
There is more to be told of the event, and the final “tintype” rendering of the photo above (available for purchase, duh) can be found at apx150photos.com.
There are links on that page to some of the other photography I shot during the Sesquicentennial.
While you are perusing those images, let me suggest you also listen to this moving to tribute to Grant and Lee co-written and performed here by Dana Cooper, from The 1861 Project Volume 1: From Farmers to Foot Soldiers.
And…. funny story: I really felt this was a special image from the Sesquicentennial. I imagined all kinds of products that would go well in the National Park Service gift shop at Appomattox. I called the manager there, they sounded really interested, but would have to clear it with the Park Historian. I sent some mounted prints. A couple of weeks later the manager got back to me and said that the Historian didn’t like the picture – because the horses are too fat.