We went to Appomattox Court House today to see where General Lee surrendered to General Grant, bringing an end to the devastating Civil War. As we approached, I took a photo of the kids in front of the famous courthouse where the big event took place.
Then we went in the visitor’s center (in said courthouse) and started learning about the events leading up the surrender, and the path their battles had taken them on when they ended up on opposite sides of Appomattox Court House. We also learned how Grant and Lee were sending notes back and forth, and then decided it was time to meet together to determine the terms of surrender. In the video we watched, we saw them meeting in this guy’s house to talk through things in person and get the terms written on paper. I kept waiting for that part of them doing something official regarding the surrender at the court house. Because I’ve always heard that the surrender happened at Appomattox Court House. Somewhere in there I finally realized…Appomattox Court House is the name of the town!!! They did NOT meet in a courthouse!! They didn’t discuss terms or sign official documents or anything in the courthouse!! It’s simply the name of the town! Maybe all the rest of you know that already, but I was floored!
All that official surrender stuff actually happened at the home of Wilmer McLean. And you know why one of the most important events in our nation’s history happened there? Because he was the only guy outside walking around town when they were looking for a place for Lee and Grant to meet! They asked him for a suggestion of a meeting place. He suggested one, they turned it down. He offered his house, they accepted. History made!
We’ve been in some very old buildings (dating back to the 1600s) in our travels this summer. This is not one of them. Apparently after the surrender, people didn’t really want anything to do with this town that represented their loss, so it was left to crumble. The McLean house was disassembled to be moved to Washington D.C. for tours, but then a recession hit, and it sat there, in pieces, for the next five decades. The National Park Service rebuilt the house based on written descriptions and the little remnants still remaining.