Sunday, September 14, 2014

Was Your Ancestor Paroled at Appomattox Courthouse with Lee's Surrender?

On April 9th, 1865, General Robert E Lee surrendered the Army of Northern Virginia after his 28,000 troops were surrounded by Grant's men. Lee and Grant met at the home of Wilber McLean in Appomattox Court House, Virginia. In the terms for surrender, all of the Confederate men and officers were pardoned. The very hungry men were also given food rations and allowed to keep their private property including horses to help in the late spring planting. Officers were even allowed to keep their side arms.

U.S. Postage Stamp, 1965 issue, commemorating the centennial anniversary of the
Confederate surrender at Appomattox Court House (image from Wikipedia)
On April 12th, the formal surrender ceremony took place. The Confederate soldiers marched forward and stacked their weapons in pyramid formation (as in the stamp above) and laid down their flags. General Joshua L Chamberlain was the Union officer in charge of the ceremony.

Chamberlain, out of respect, ordered the Union army to salute their defeated countrymen as they came forward. Here are Chamberlain's words from his book, "Passing of the Armies":

Before us in proud humiliation stood the embodiment of manhood: men whom neither toils and sufferings, nor the fact of death, nor disaster, nor hopelessness could bend from their resolve; standing before us now, thin, worn, and famished, but erect, and with eyes looking level into ours, waking memories that bound us together as no other bond;—was not such manhood to be welcomed back into a Union so tested and assured? Instructions had been given; and when the head of each division column comes opposite our group, our bugle sounds the signal and instantly our whole line from right to left, regiment by regiment in succession, gives the soldier's salutation, from the "order arms" to the old "carry"—the marching salute....On our part not a sound of trumpet more, nor roll of drum; not a cheer, nor word nor whisper of vain-glorying, nor motion of man standing again at the order, but an awed stillness rather, and breath-holding, as if it were the passing of the dead!
My husband's great, great, great grandfather, James Franklin Stewart (1840-1910) was a part of the Army of Northern Virginia, but he was either absent or already mustered out by this date. But, his wife's brother, Davault M Sigman (1838-1887), was present and must have took place in this end-of-the-war ceremony and laid down his weapons to the Union army. But he also would have received much needed food rations and been allowed to return home to his family.

Parole for Prisoners of the Army of Northern Virginia at Appomattox
The Parole of Gen. Lee and His Army, The Times Picayune, New Orleans, Louisiana, 10 Apr 1865, page 3, column 4;
digital image accessed 13 Sep 2014)
The newspaper clipping above gives the wording that was issued on a parole to the nearly 28,000 members of the Army of Northern Virginia who were being paroled:

I, the undersigned, commanding officer of ______, do, for the within named prisoners of war belonging to the Army of Northern Virginia, who have been this day surrendered by Gen. Robert E. Lee, Confederate States Army, commanding said army, to Lieut. Gen. Grant, commanding armies of the United States, hereby give my solemn parole of honor that the within named shall not hereafter serve in the armies of the Confederate States, or in military or any capacity whatever against the United States of America, or render aid to the enemies of the latter, until properly exchanged in such manner as shall be mutually approved by the respective authorities.

Done at Appomattox Court-House, Virginia, this 9th day of April, 1865.

The within named will not be disturbed by the United States authorities, so long as they observe their parole and the laws in force where they may reside.

The National Park Service has a website with an "alphabetical listing of parole passes" which can be searched online to see if your ancestor was paroled at Appomattox!

Other websites used:

Do we share common ancestors? I'd love to talk! Please leave a comment or email me at


  1. The Appomattox Courthouse is an hour and a half from my home, if you ever want to visit. I'm just sayin'. :)

  2. Great story, Dana! I never heard of this list of parolees at Appomattox. What a bittersweet day for these Confederate men and their families!

  3. Linda Yuille MarchettiAugust 7, 2016 at 1:58 AM

    My great-grandfather Philip Payne Yuille was one of the parolees and walked 14 miles to his home near Lawyers, Va. which still stands now known as Plantation Gardens. He is buried in Spring Hill Cemetery, Lynchburg, Va.

    1. Linda, Did you grow up hearing stories about this? Or did you learn it through genealogy? Either way, what a historical event to be a part of.

      And, I hadn't thought about how they would have to make their ways home. At least your great grandfather only had 14 miles to walk. I'm guessing many walked home with their friends who had served alongside them. And, what a tough world it must have been to return to... missing friends, siblings, fathers or sons. And, leaving a life of fighting and having to learn to live "normal" lives again. All the while, knowing you had lost the war and the South had been so damaged.

  4. Great story. My great, great, great grandfather, Jesse Lowe, served in the 4th NC Cavalry, and was paroled at Appomattox. I learned of him through a family geneology study. I trying to learn more about the unit history, and what battles he may have participated in.

    1. Matth, That's great! I'm currently learning more about researching my Civil War - primarily Confederate - family members. Learning about the unit history and battles is a GREAT way to bring Jesse's story to life.

  5. Both of my great-great grandfathers were with General Lee at Appomattox - the NPS site had both of them listed on the parolee list! Thank you so much for sharing this information! :)

    1. Wow! That's really neat! And, you're welcome. :)

  6. My 3rd great grandpa John Henry Anderson was parolee at Appomattox on April 9th. He was from the 6th Company D Calvary VA. He is buried in Berryville, Virginia died in 1901. Served a 4 year term with the Calvary.

    1. Isn't it neat to know that your ancestor was part of this historic event?


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