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What is the Appomattox Court House?

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  • Written By: Ken Black
  • Edited By: Andrew Jones
  • Last Modified Date: 24 September 2016
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The Appomattox Court House is not a single building where a court of law is, but rather a reference to a small village that used to be the county seat of Appomattox County, Virginia. In the 19th Century, it was common for county seats were the courthouse (one word) was located to be called a court house (two words). The area is known for one of the most monumental moments in United States history, where Gen. Robert E. Lee surrendered to Gen. Ulysses S. Grant during the American Civil War. The battle that took place at the Appomattox Court House was Lee's last attempt to flee to Lynchburg, Va., where he had more supplies waiting.

Instead of surrendering at an actual courthouse, Lee actually surrendered at the McLean home on April 9, 1865. The house, along with the rest of the site, is now a protected national park in the United States, located in Central Virginia. Lee arrived at the home approximately a half hour before Grant, and both sides negotiated the terms of the surrender.

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Given the notoriety of the generals involved, many believe the surrender of Lee actually ended the war between the states. This is not true, however. The war actually ended two months later, in June, when the last Confederate general surrendered, or signed a cease-fire agreement, in the Oklahoma Territory. Despite the fact that some generals continued to fight after the events at the Appomattox Court House, historians generally agree the beginning of the end was when Lee surrendered.

At the very least, the surrender at Appomattox Court House allowed the Union to send troops and resources to other battlefronts. Thus, it hastened the end of the war from a practical standpoint, though probably not a psychological one. Other generals may have surrendered, had communications been received that provided news of Lee's surrender, but many of the generals in other parts of the country had no idea of what had transpired in Virginia.

Those who wish to visit the Appomattox Court House today will find it fully restored to the condition it was in at the time of the Civil War. The area not only features the buildings, but also other artifacts such as artillery and other weapons commonly used during the war. The actual house where the surrender took place had once been dismantled, with the thought of moving it to Washington, D.C. That never took place, and it was eventually rebuilt on the original site.

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Emilski
Post 4

@cardsfan27 - You are absolutely correct. The town of Appomattox definitely does not have much besides this historical site and they are not alone.

There are many towns in this area of the country that revolve around tourism due to a significant event that happened during the Civil War and Appomattox just happens to be one of them that has probably the most significant event in the war to lay claim to.

I find it very interesting that such an important event occurred in such a small area and the place of surrender just happens to be a very small town like many in the area.

Appomattox is definitely lucky to claim that they were the place where the surrender occurred and that this is something that people cannot take away from them due to the agreement of Grant and Lee in the town even though the war did not end until a couple of months later.

JimmyT
Post 3

@TreeMan - I have heard this debate before and I have to say that the Confederate surrender at Appomattox court house is where the Civil War officially ended and the place in Oklahoma should not have a claim to being the place where the war ended.

Yes, the war may have ended there, but it was officially called off in Appomattox with General Lee's surrender. It only ended in Oklahoma awhile later because it took awhile for word to spread that the war had officially ended and also the General's had to make sure that the message was legitimate considering the importance and radical nature of the message.

Do not forget that the famous Battle of New Orleans in 1812 occurred

a couple weeks after the war had officially ended but neither side knew this yet. Same principle applies in this case and it just took awhile for word to get to Oklahoma and for the war to officially come to a close.
TreeMan
Post 2

@cardsfan27 - I had also always assumed that the Civil War officially ended at Appomattox Court House and that it simply took a little while for word to spread across the country telling the troops to stop fighting.

If this is the case then how can the town of Appomattox claim that they were the town that officially ended the Civil War? I think that it should be the place in Oklahoma where the last General surrendered.

This place is not even mentioned but it seems like to me that they should have the claim to being the place that the Civil War officially ended and that they should be the place that people go to when they want to see where the war actually ended.

cardsfan27
Post 1

I always assumed that the Civil War officially ended with Lee's surrender to General Grant at Appomattox. It would make perfect sense to me that this is when the war officially ended when the main General of the Confederate Army surrendered. That was how the Revolutionary War ended when the main General for the British surrendered, but I guess I was wrong with this assumption.

However, I do find it interesting that such an important event in one of the biggest and most important events in American history occurred in such a small town.

This historical event definitely made a name for the town and I am sure creates a lot of tourism for an area that would otherwise be unknown if they did not have some historical significance to it.

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