A most attractive and unobtainably rare map of the Confederate and Union positions at Appomattox Court House on April 9, 1865, the date on which Robert E. Lee surrendered of the Army of Northern Virginia.
By early April 1865 Lee’s army had been whittled down by battle, sickness, hunger and desertion to fewer than 30,000 men, far outnumbered by three Union armies (the Armies of the Potomac, Shenandoah and the James). After retreating over several days from Richmond to Appomattox Court House, Lee found himself trapped after General Sheridan’s cavalry gained control of the Lynchburg road. Unable to punch through to Lynchburg, Lee finally agreed to surrender on April 9, at a famous meeting with Grant held at the home of Wilmer and Virginia McLean in the center of the village. This effectively marked the end of the Civil War, though further to the south and west some Confederate units fought on into May.
Considering the significance of Lee’s surrender, it is surprising that so few maps of the event were published at the time. Offered here is one of the few, issued in 1866 by Baltimore publisher J. Henderson & Co. The map depicts an area roughly 5 ½ by 4 ½ miles surrounding the village of Appomattox Court House, with wooded areas sketched in, the topography indicated by hachuring, and roads and waterways delineated. A couple of dozen residences are identified, notably that of Wilmer and Virginia McLean in the center of the village, where Generals Grant and Lee met to agree on surrender terms. Symbols indicate the positions of the two armies, with Grant’s huge army in an arc east, south and west of the village and Lee’s much smaller force to the north.
The map is flanked by panels of text describing the events of the previous week and the surrender itself, with Lee’s “Farewell Message to His Army” reprinted at the base. As mentioned previously, the map was issued in Baltimore, which of course remained in the Union but where there was much sympathy for the Confederate cause. The tone and content of the text suggests that the publisher shared this sympathy; for example:
“As the great confederate General rode past his gallant little band from his interview with Gen. Grant, whole lines of battle rushed to the beloved old chief, and breaking ranks, each struggled with the other to wring him by the hand. With tears rolling down his cheeks, General lee could only say “Men, we have fought through the war together. I have done the best that I could for you.””
The visual appeal of the image is greatly enhanced by the varied typography of the title and pictorial vignettes of Lee’s and Grant’s headquarters, the McLane House, the village of Appomattox Court House, and the place where the Army of Northern Virginia surrendered (“stacked”) its arms.
The map is extremely rare: I have located institutional holdings only at the Library of Congress, Penn State and Dartmouth. The Library of Congress appears to hold two or more examples, at least one of which is printed with a tint stone. and neither the Antique Map Price Record nor Rare Book Hub list any examples having appeared on the antiquarian market.
Stephenson, Civil War Maps, #524. OCLC 49247279, together listing holdings only at Library of Congress and Penn State. OCLC 25033745 lists another example at Dartmouth, but dated 1867 (March 2022).