A day after surrendering his army to Union General Ulysses S. Grant, Confederate General Robert E. Lee issued the following message to the soldiers of his beloved Army of Northern Virginia, which he had commanded since the spring of 1862, and at the head of which he had won battle after battle against superior Union forces. As he prepared to meet Grant to discuss the terms of surrender, Lee rejected the suggestion of a subordinate to disperse his men into guerrilla groups that would continue the war to achieve Southern independence. Lee deemed the social costs of such a course too high of a price to pay, and he sought instead reconciliation with his fellow Americans, though he never doubted the South’s cause to be a just one.

Headquarters, Army of Northern Virginia, April 10th, 1865

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 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 valour and devotion could accomplish nothing that could compensate for the loss that must have attended the continuance of the contest, I have 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 unceasing admiration of your constancy and devotion to your Country, and a grateful remembrance of your kind and generous consideration for myself, I bid you an affectionate farewell.

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