About Appomattox Court House
It was in Appomattox, a village in Virginia, that General Robert E. Lee surrendered to Lieutenant General Ulysses S. Grant on 9 April 1865, marking the end of the American Civil War. The meeting took place at the home of Wilmer and Virginia McLean, in the village of Appomattox Court House.
History of Appomattox Court House
Misleadingly, the actual Appomattox Court House, built in 1846, played no role in events – it was in fact the McLean House which saw General Lee’s surrender. The house was originally constructed in 1848, and sold to Wilmer McLean in 1863.
One of the first battles of the Civil War, the First Battle of Bull Run, had taken place on McLean’s farm, and he was keen to move to avoid the war, being too old to enlist, and he and his wife Virginia resettled in Clover Hill, Virginia. McLean made money running sugar through the Union blockade and was a slaveowner himself.
Despite his attempts to leave the fighting behind, it was in his home that General Robert Lee, leader of the Confederate army, surrendered to the Unionist Lieutenant General Ulysses S. Grant. The exact table and chairs where the surrender was negotiated are now part of the Smithsonian collection.
With the collapse of the Confederacy, the McLeans’ fortune disappeared, and their house – known as ‘Surrender House’ – was auctioned off in November 1869. The property traded hands several more times until 1891, when it was bought by a group of investors who planned to capitalise on its pivotal role and turn it into a kind of Civil War museum, disassembling it and taking it to Washington. This scheme never came to fruition, and having run out of money, the house was left to ruin once again.
Eventually, Appomattox Court House National Park was created in 1940, and the McLean House was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1966.
Appomattox Court House today
Appomattox County Court National Park now offers visitors a myriad of experiences and exhibits relating to the Confederate surrender. You can visit the Mclean House where the surrender took place as well as the Appomattox County Court Visitors Centre, which houses a number of exhibits relating to the event.
Visitors can also gain an understanding of the final battles of the Civil War by visiting the Appomattox Station and Court House. Living history experiences are conducted throughout the summer months and occasionally in the spring and winter, with actors recreating the famous surrender. You should allow at least three hours for your visit.
Getting to Appomattox Court House
The site is located in south Virginia, about 95 miles west of Richmond. There’s ample parking on site, including for coaches and buses – parking is about 5 km northeast of the modern day town of Appomattox. Public transport is non-existent in this part of the US.