Today in Civil War History: Grant Asks Lee to Surrender, Rumors Spread in Union Ranks

Four days after Richmond, Virginia, the Capitol of the Confederate States, fell to Union forces, General Ulysses S. Grant sent a message to Confederate General Robert E. Lee in an effort to end the bloodshed. The following is day one of their correspondence (via

U.S. General Ulysses S. Grant“U.S. General Ulysses S. Grant – 5 P.M., April 7th, 1865:
The results of the last week must convince you of the hopelessness of further resistance on the part of the Army of Northern Virginia in this struggle. I feel that it is so, and regard it as my duty to shift from myself the responsibility of any further effusion of blood by asking of you the surrender of that portion of the Confederate States army known as the Army of Northern Virginia.
U.S. Grant, Lieutenant-General”


The note was carried through the Confederate lines and Lee promptly responded…

Confederate General Robert E. LeeConfederate General Robert E. Lee – April 7th, 1865– General: I have received your note of this date. Though not entertaining the opinion you express of the hopelessness of further resistance on the part of the Army of Northern Virginia, I reciprocate your desire to avoid useless effusion of blood, and therefore, before considering your proposition, ask the terms you will offer on condition of its surrender.
R.E. Lee, General.”


Nearly 300 miles away, outside of the recently captured Wilmington, North Carolina, Onondaga County soldier David W. Nelson of the 117th Regiment NYS Volunteers hears a rumor about Lee’s surrender, but awaits confirmation:

“76th entry – 7 April: Rumors are afloat today of the surrender of Lee, but it lacks confirmation. Grant is reported to have captured 22,000  men and 500 pieces of artillery in his late movements.”

Nelson didn’t know it then, but it wouldn’t be long until Lee would surrender to Union forces. Read the full correspondence between the two generals here.