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    Lee's Farewell

    Robert E. Lee Period Fair Copy of General Order No. 9 Signed "R E Lee Genl." One page, 7.75" x 9.75", "Head. Qrs. Army N. Va. [Appomattox Court House, Virginia]," April 10, 1865. This particular copy is unique in that it is mistakenly marked "General Order No. 19." It appears that it was first drafted as "No. 10" and then corrected to "No. 19." The fact that Lee signs as "Genl" places the signing sometime shortly after the surrender.

    This copy has some very minor grammatical changes from most transcriptions and reads, 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 this result from no distrust of them. But feeling that valor and devotion could accomplish nothing that could 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 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 unceasing admiration of your constancy and devotion to your country and a grateful remembrance of your kind and generous consideration for myself, I bid you all an affectionate adieu farewell."

    Reinforced on the verso along the folds, which are weakened and separating in places with minor loss of paper, one small tear at the right edge being repaired simultaneously. Scattered spots of foxing. Light staining along the right margin (from the verso) appears to be waterstaining, but it has not affected the text or Lee's signature. Edges are chipped in places. Lee's signature is light, but wholly legible.

    Following Grant's breakthrough of the Confederate lines after the Battle of Five Forks on April 1, 1865, 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 Joseph E. Johnston and the Army of Tennessee in North Carolina. 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 9th, 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 Lt. Gen. Ulysses S. Grant at the house of Wilmer McLean, surrendered himself and the Army of Northern Virginia. The following day, Lee's aide-de-camp, Col. 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 the Farewell Address: "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 army...in 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. He 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 copy...to 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.)


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    Auction Dates
    October, 2013
    17th-18th Thursday-Friday
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