On July 21, 1861, Wilmer McLean in his home near Bull Run had experienced in his first battle of war; all he wanted. He moved his family to a new home in the quiet hamlet near the court house of Appomattox County. Now, April 9, 1865, almost four years later, by an irony of history his home became the place where that war ended.
They met in a front room of the house, the tall, gray, handsome aristocrat in spotless gray uniform and dress sword and short, stubby-bearded man in mud-splashed boots and ordinary blue soldier's jacket, with nothing to mark his rank but the three tarnished stars on his collar. They talked for a while of inconsequential things while the watching generals stood in awed and awkward silence in the backgournd. Then Ulysses Grant wrote briefly and deliberately; Robert Lee read the words, made a correction and a suggestion--and that was the end. The Army of Northern Virginia died with the acceptance of those pen strokes.
Back in his tent Lee instructed an aide to write. He made a few changes, and then signed General Order No. 9:
"After four years of arduous service, marked by unsurpassed courage and fortitude, the Army of Northern Virginia has been compelled to yield to overwhelming numbers and resources. I need not tell the brave survivors of so many hard-fought battles, who have remained steadfast to the last, that I have consented to the result from no distrust of them. But feeling that valor and devotion could accomplish nothing that could compensate for the loss that must have attended the continuance of the contest, I determined to avoid the useless sacrifice of those whose past services have endeared them to their countrymen.
"By the terms of the agreement officers and men can return to their homes and remain until exchanged. You will take with you the satisfaction that proceeds from the consciousness of duty faithfully performed; and I earnestly pray that a merciful God will extend to you His blessing and protection.
"With an increasing admiration of your constancy and devotion to your country, and a grateful remembrance of your kind and generous consideration for myself, I bid you all an affectionate farewell."