Lee’s surrender sword, uniform join display
at Confederacy’s new Appomattox museum
The sword Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee had at his side when he surrendered to Union Gen. Ulysses S. Grant has returned to Appomattox, Va., as the centerpiece of a new museum examining the post-Civil War struggle to heal the nation.
The uniform Lee wore that day in 1865 also was on display March 31 when the Museum of the Confederacy opened its 11,700-square-foot museum. The Appomattox facility, located within a mile of where the war effectively ended, is the first in a regional system planned by the Museum of the Confederacy to make its vast collection of Confederate artifacts and manuscripts more accessible. Some 10 percent of its holdings are only on display at any one time at the Richmond museum.
The other museums are planned for the Fredericksburg area and Hampton Roads and, perhaps, Fort Monroe.
In all, 454 uniforms, muskets, swords, documents, flags and other artifacts will be displayed at the Museum of the Confederacy-Appomattox. The town of Appomattox kicked in $350,000 for the $10 million project. The museum, which is about 90 miles west of Richmond, Va., will chart the start of the war, its end and its impact on everyone from women to freed slaves.
Lee’s French-made ceremonial sword is seen at his side in many paintings of the meeting with Grant at Appomattox to sign the document of surrender on April 9, 1865. The Army of Northern Virginia's formal surrender followed three days later, effectively ending the war that left about 630,000 dead. It’s an enduring myth that Lee offered his sword to Grant and that his Union counterpart refused the traditional gesture of surrender.
Lee’s sword has been freshly conserved after years of polishing had erased much of the golden luster from the brass. The nearly 3 1⁄2-foot “weapon” now sparkles, from the lion head on its pommel to the gilded relief on its steel blade. It has an ivory grip. The sword strictly was intended for ceremonial use and there is no evidence Lee used it in battle.
The sword and scabbard, along with Lee’s uniform, were given to the museum by the Confederate leader’s descendants.
A booklet detailing the surrender at Appomattox Silent Witness is available from A/E Press for $5.95. For more information contact email@example.com.