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    Lee's General Orders No. 9 issued to the captain of "Lee's Body Guard"

    Robert E. Lee General Orders No. 9 Signed "R E Lee Genl." One page, 7.75" x 11.75", Headquarters, Army of Northern Virginia [near Appomattox, Virginia]; April 10, 1865. Manuscript in the hand of an unidentified aide de camp of Lee's General Orders No. 9, and issued to the Army of Northern Virginia the day after he surrendered to General Ulysses S. Grant at Appomattox Court House. This copy was issued to Captain Samuel B. Brown, Captain of the 39th Virginia Battalion. The 39th, known as "Lee's Body Guard," was a special operations unit that performed courier, escort, and guard duty. One of its duties was to maintain a perimeter guard around Lee's headquarters. Written on blue stationery identical to the copies originally issued by Lee to his officers at Appomattox. In full:

    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 brave 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 valor and devotion could accomplish nothing that would compensate for the loss that must have attended the continuance of the contest, I 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 increasing admiration of your constancy and devotion to your country, and a grateful remembrance of your kind and generous considerations for myself, I bid you all an affectionate farewell.

    R. E. Lee

    Following General Ulysses S. Grant's breakthrough of the Confederate lines after the Battle of Five Forks, Virginia, on April 1, 1865, General Lee evacuated Petersburg and the Confederate capital of Richmond, leading his army west toward Appomattox where a supply train awaited him. His plan was to turn south and join forces with General Joseph E. Johnston and the Army of Tennessee in North Carolina to fight General William T. Sherman. Unfortunately, George Armstrong Custer's cavalry destroyed the three supply trains awaiting Lee at Appomattox on April 8. Lee arrived that night and immediately resolved to push on to Lynchburg the following morning, where another supply train could replenish his army. By the morning of the April 9, however, he found himself surrounded by Federal troops. He made one last desperate attempt, sending John B. Gordon to break through the Union cavalry guarding the western exit. When the attempt failed, Lee had no choice but to surrender. He negotiated a cease-fire and, meeting General Grant at the house of Wilmer McLean in Appomattox, surrendered himself and the Army of Northern Virginia. The following day, Lee's aide de camp, Colonel Charles Marshall, at the insistence of the general, drafted General Order, No. 9, also known as Lee's Farewell Address.

    In a letter to Confederate General Bradley T. Johnson, dated September 27, 1887, Charles Marshall described the events surrounding his drafting of General Order No. 9: "General Lee's order to the Army of Northern Virginia at Appomattox Court House was written the day after the meeting at McLean's house, at which the terms of the surrender were agreed upon. That night the general sat with several of us at a fire in front of his tent, and after some conversation about the which his feelings toward his men were strongly expressed, he told me to prepare an order to the troops." Apparently, it never occurred to Lee that, as he had surrendered himself and his army the previous day, he no longer had the authority to issue a military order. Marshall continues: "The next day...many persons were coming and going, so that I was unable to write without interruption until about 10 o'clock, when General Lee, finding that the order had not been prepared, directed me to get into his ambulance...I sat in the ambulance until I had written the order, the first draft of which (in pencil) contained an entire paragraph that was omitted by General Lee's direction. He made one or two verbal changes, and I then made a copy of the order as corrected, and gave it to one of the clerks in the adjutant-general's office to write in ink. I took the the general, who signed it, and other copies were then made for transmission to the corps commanders and the staff of the army. All these copies were signed by the general, and a good many persons sent other copies which they had made or procured, and obtained his signature. In this way many copies of the order had the general's name signed as if they were originals, some of which I have seen." (Johnson, Robert Underwood, et al. [editors]. Battles and Leaders of the Civil War, Volume 4. 1888.) Based on the appearance of the paper, we believe the copy offered here is one of the copies made for the corps commanders as described by Marshall.

    The order explained his decision to surrender: his dwindling army of 35,000 men (compared to Grant's more than 110,000) was outmatched in men and resources, and it would be a useless sacrifice of life to continue the fight. Lee then praised his troops for their "duty faithfully performed," and bid them "an affectionate farewell."

    This copy of Order No. 9 was issued to Samuel B. Brown, who was captain of the 39th Virginia Battalion, Army of Northern Virginia, during the Appomattox Campaign of March 29 to April 9, 1865. This is one of the original manuscript copies of General Order No. 9, or Lee's farewell address, considered by many to be one of the most famous documents written during the Civil War and by some to be the most famous military order in American history. This is the first time this copy has appeared on the market, having been kept in the family since it was issued. An early transcription, probably dating from the early 1900s, is included with the original. The transcription measures 8.25" x 11".

    Condition: Toning at edges and uneven spots of toning throughout. Chipping at margins not affecting text, particularly top and bottom. Flatten mail folds with separations thereat. There is minor chipping along some of the folds with bits of paper loss. Light foxing throughout. Ink has faded but remains legible. Transcription has light mat burn at margins and two small strips of tape at the top edge on verso. Very light foxing on verso. There is a very small hole at the upper right edge.

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    Auction Dates
    October, 2018
    25th Thursday
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