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general order no. 9A day after surrendering his army to Union General Ulysses S. Grant, Confederate General Robert E. Lee issued the following message to the soldiers of his beloved Army of Northern Virginia, which he had commanded since the spring of 1862, and at the head of which he had won battle after battle against superior Union forces. As he prepared to meet Grant to discuss the terms of surrender, Lee rejected the suggestion of a subordinate to disperse his men into guerrilla groups that would continue the war to achieve Southern independence. Lee deemed the social costs of such a course too high of a price to pay, and he sought instead reconciliation with his fellow Americans, though he never doubted the South’s cause to be a just one.

Headquarters, Army of Northern Virginia, April 10th, 1865

General Order No. 9

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 survivors of so many hard fought battles, who have remained steadfast to the last, that I have consented to the result from no distrust of them. But feeling that valour and devotion could accomplish nothing that could compensate for the loss that must have attended the continuance of the contest, I have determined to avoid the useless sacrifice of those whose past services have endeared them to their countrymen. By the terms of the 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 an affectionate farewell.

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Published: Apr 9, 2015
Robert E. Lee
Robert E. Lee was the commander of the Army of Northern Virginia during the War for Southern Independence. Previous to that, he served in the United States Army during the Mexican War and commanded the detachment of U.S. Marines that arrested the radical abolitionist, John Brown. In the final years of his life, Lee served as president of Washington College in Virginia.
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  1. About the age of nine, I read all four volumes of Douglas Southall Freeman’s R.E. Lee and then followed that up with his three volumes on Lee’s Lieutenants, never dreaming that our son would be a pastor to one of General Lee’s great granddaughters for several years. I had the opportunity of speaking with her on one occasion, telling her how about how inspiring her ancestor had been. Perhaps one of the most inspiring incidents in the General’s life, for me, was his kneeling at the communion rail to receive the sacraments with an African American, the first time that that had happened in the church in Richmond several weeks after the surrender. Then in another church where I preached, supplying the pulpit during the interim between pastors, the gentlemen in charge was a descendant of General Lee’s brother who shoed Traveler. These events happened after I had received a great deal of training in Black history (as it was called then, now African American History). One bit of knowledge stands out. General Lee believed that the Blacks could never be social equals of the Whites, that they lacked the wherewithal to accomplish what the Whites could. At the very time he was thinking in such manner, two Black men in South Carolina had studied everything there young masters had studied, from grade school all the way through Oxford University (I am not sure whether they actually attended classes at the latter institution or studied the works in their quarters.) In any case, both men had an Oxford education, and one of them was somewhat of a Hebrew scholar. He would provide the name for a school of the AME church in South Carolina which was on a campus adjacent to the institution in which I taught, South Carolina State college. At that time (1970-72), I had no knowledge of the source of the name for Clafflin University. In fact, I would learn about it from the Founder’s great granddaughter’s memoir written in conjunction with one of her own descendants.

    I did know that African Americans could produce scholars, having written a paper on Intellectuals of the Western Sudan (really about Ahmed Baba, the rare jewel of learning at the Sankore Mosque University in Timbuktu in the Songhai empire, comparing him with Ibn Khaldun, the leading Arabic scholar of the middle ages) at Columbia University in the Summer of 1971. I knew the field in which he had written works of Islamic scholarship, e.g., law, theology, etc. Within the past decade, I had the opportunity to see on educational tv Dr. Gates speaking with the Librarian of that Islamic school who showed some of the sixty volumes that had been written by Baba.

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