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The Battle of Appomattox Court House - The American Civil War

This momentous battle resulted in the surrender of General Lee to the Union's General Grant, spelling disaster for the Confederacy.

5. Background

The battle of Appomattox Court House pitted the armies of the Confederate General Robert E. Lee against the forces led by the Union General Ulysses S. Grant. It began and was concluded on April 9th, 1865 at Appomattox Courthouse in Appomattox County, Virginia. It was one of the most major, and ultimately important, American Civil War battles. The battle began when General Lee ordered an attack on the Union's troops. The onslaught by the Confederates was initially successful, but fizzled out when Union troops arrived from the west and south and surrounded Lee’s troops. The Confederates then retreated and, ultimately, Lee surrendered to Grant and the Union's forces.

4. Makeup

The Confederate troops, commanded by General Robert E. Lee, were 30,000 men strong in total number. Opposing the Confederates, and greatly outnumbering them, the Union troops, under the leadership of General Ulysses S. Grant, stood at a strength of 100,000 men.

3. Description

Sharps, Spencer rifles, rifled muskets, Springfield 1861 models, and Henry rifles were the primary weapons used in the battle of Appomattox Court House. Of those, the rifled musket was the one most often used throughout the course of the Civil War. The artilleries utilized Parrot Rifles, ordnance rifles, and Napoleon and Whitworth cannons. Bayonets and saber swords were also used in the case of close combat. The Confederates were defeated when the Union army cut off its ammunition and food supplies, and subsequently besieged them. The Union army debilitated their foes as they ambushed trains loaded with supplies destined for the Confederates. The battleground at Appomattox was thickly covered in shrub and dense forest. The terrain caused confusion among the Confederate armies, who found themselves disjointed amidst Appomattox's rugged environ.

2. Outcome

The battle of Appomattox was won by the Union army led by General Ulysses S. Grant. Numbers played a role in the Union’s win. The Union had more than three times as many troops as compared to the combatants fielded by the Confederate Army. Their much larger size made it easier for them to surround the Confederates and ambush them. Low morale and starvation also caused the Confederates to suffer heavy tolls in the battles preceding The Battle of Appomattox. There were an estimated 700 combined casualties. The Union army lost around 260 troops, while the Confederates lost 440. Over 27,000 Confederate soldiers surrendered at the battle's conclusion.

1. Significance

Historically, the Battle of Appomattox Court House marked the beginning of the end of Confederate hopes in the American Civil War. The treaty to end it, signed by Generals Grant and Lee, was drafted by Lieutenant Colonel Ely S. Parker. Parker, a Seneca Chief, was a law school graduate from New York, and served as Grant’s personal military secretary. The treaty terms agreed to by Lee and Grant became a model for many other surrenders that followed around the world. The treaty and rapport between Lee and Grant ensured that the roughly 28,000 Confederate soldiers captured would be paroled, but not imprisoned. Today, the site is maintained as the Appomattox Court House National Historical Park. It is listed on the Virginia Landmarks Register, as a US Historic District, and on the US National Register of Historic Places as well.

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