Bittersweet Surrender

Petersburg, Virginia

June, 1864

There was war in the air. The morbid smell of death was surrounding me and making my stomach lurch. It was all too familiar and frankly, I've grown weary of all this death, and I've gotten sick of watching my men die. One by one seeing them get shot down, it's as if I'm sending them off to the slaughter. And this sound, this unearthly sound; overwhelming my eardrums and giving me this horrid headache!

We're going to lose.

No, I'm not thinking straight.

Focus, focus, focus, focus. They're the enemy, and you're in charge.

I'm in charge. What will I do?

"General Lee! …It's not looking good. What do you reckon we should do?"

"Retreat."

"Retreat? But, sir!"

"We cannot hold out any longer, lieutenant! Retreat. That's an order."

"…Yes sir."

In the background I could hear the screams of pain and agony as my comrades, my men, died and the weak calls of my order.

"Retreat!"

"Retreat!"

"Retreat!" They called out over, and over again.

As I stood there, face stone cold, listening with intent; I thought back to my daughter playing her violin for me, it was beautiful. Mozart's Violin Concerto No. 3 in G Major, drowning out the noise, somehow I felt that everything was going to turn out fine. Yes, perfectly fine. There are wins and there are losses in war but, overall we will be victorious.

I was wrong, so horribly wrong.

Headquarters Army of the Potomac

April 7th, 1865

General R. E. Lee

GENERAL: --The result 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 myself the responsibility for 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

Virginia

April 8th, 1865

I'm cornered. There is nowhere for me to go, and Grant has surrounded me, and my troops. All attacks are futile, and I suppose this is the first time the hopelessness of it all was setting in.

I turn to my troops, and announce to them the current situation and what I must do:

"There is nothing left for me to do but go and see General Grant, and I would rather die a thousand deaths."

We march out, my men all hungry, starving, and hardly any clothes on their backs!

The meeting is in Appomattox, Virginia. How bittersweet, where it started for me, will be the end for all this war.

Appomattox, Virginia

April 9th, 1865

No, not in my wildest dreams did I ever believe that I, Robert Edward Lee, "Ace of Spades," would ever be here, in Virginia, my very own home state, surrendering. It's ludicrous. I refuse to accept it! But no, this is the way it was supposed to be. There's nothing more I can do.

Had I not grown weary of all this war? This is the end, right here. I'll be able to go back home to my wife and children, but at what cost? This is definitely not the ending I had imagined. I was supposed to be victorious. Things will never be the same after this. I guess, I'm scared, of what will happen now. I had become so accustomed to this type of life, what will become of me after this?

And what of the conditions? What if they are something I cannot cope with, and then it will be all my fault for forfeiting in the first place. Oh yes, I'm very scared. This is the first time I have ever had so many qualms about one thing, such a mess of second guesses. I should be the strong confident person I always am. The person that is respected, yes.

So now standing in front of The McLean House in Appomattox, sweating profusely, unnerved by the idea of actually going in. I take in a deep breath and my mouth is quick to water. Filling up with saliva, I start to taste the bile at the back of my throat, inching it's way up in hopes to force itself out, only to be washed back down. I swallow.

"So, you'll be coming in now? You can't just stand around and look at the door all day." The homeowner says, a jovial smile on his face.

"Yes, I was just about to go in. I suppose my standing here is less than productive. Where is the exact meeting place?"

I take the door handle and enter. It's a nice house and he leads me to the designated room for the arrangement to take place.

"Ah!" Grant says, "I was wondering when you would be getting here… I hope Meade didn't give you any trouble."

"Nothing my men and I couldn't handle."

"Well, at any rate, have a seat. It's going to be a long day."

The hours went by, and at many times I wished to be somewhere else, even if they were being extremely generous in their offers, I felt tired. I always felt tired. Although, I could never anticipate what would take place upon General Custer's arrival.

"So, this is where the big treaty is being signed?" Custer said, and upon seeing me, called with snide, "Why, hello there, General Lee-Lee. What a pleasure to see you!" Holding the 'E's much longer than necessary, he took a place standing next to Parker.

"Good afternoon, General Custer. Now, shall we continue?" I reply.

"Why yes, do not let my entrance distract you, sir."

"As I was saying before, one of my main concerns is the horses. I would be very much at ease if my men could keep their horses."

"I-I can not see a problem with that. Our main concern was just to get you and your men to lay down your arms." Grant replies.

"They will receive food and not be tried for treason, as well, yes?."

"Yes, as long as they lay down their arms, your men can return to their homes, not to be disturbed by United States authority so long as they observe their paroles and the law in force where they may stay."

"Now to put it in writing, yes?"

We went to work writing while debating other things, and we finally came to our agreement. I signed the document, he signed the document, everyone signed the document, and just as I was about to leave…

"Hey, Lee, no hard feelings? Right?" Grant held out his hand.

"Y-yes," I reach out and grab his hand, moving in a steady shake, "I harbor no ill feelings toward you, Grant."

I'm finally going home. Isn't that, in the end, all that matters? Yes, things will definitely change from now on, but I'll be able to see my wife, and kids.

Home. What a wonderful word.

Author's Notes: This was written for my Language Arts class. And, for those of you wondering, yes, I did do research. Quite a lot. I think I captured everyone's personality a bit accurately, in the least. I hope I did, at least.

Criticism is always wanted! :)