The “stillness” at Appomattox

The less-than-one-company-sized pittance that was the 13th Mississippi Regiment at Appomattox Courthouse played no recorded role in the events surrounding General Lee’s formal surrender of the Army of Northern Virginia on April 9, 1865. It was the Christian holy day of Palm Sunday.

According to the National Historical Park on the Web, four officers and 81 privates surrendered at Appomattox and were freed on parole. By my count of their online records, however, a total of 80 surrendered, a number which includes three assistant surgeons, three corporals, four sergeants and a first lieutenant: 1LT William H. Davis, who began the war as a Spartan Band private but was commanding the regiment at Appomattox.

The 13th Regiment soldiers who surrendered at Sayler’s Creek on April 6 are not included on the parole list and no one seems to have kept a record of them. And the paroled were the fortunate ones, for they were immediately released and given passes to facilitate their journey home to Mississippi.

Those who were captured at Sayler’s Creek three days before Appomattox, along with thousands of others from Lee’s army, were marched (some were so weak they had to be dragged by their comrades, according to historian Robert Krick) back to Petersburg. They were crowded onto filthy transports and taken, without food or water, north to Federal prisons. Krick found that some of them died on the way. Many were taken to the Maryland hellhole on Chesapeake Bay dubbed Point Lookout. The subsequent assassination of President Lincoln would add to their problems and delay their release until July.

Humphreys’ Mississippi Brigade memoirist J.S. McNeilly indicated that he was among the imprisoned. He commented on the surrender of Humphreys’ brigade and the two other Mississippi brigades in Lee’s army this way: “In the final roundup at Appomattox Mississippians were woefully scarce even where the army was a skeleton.”

McNeilly counted 698 Mississippians out of a surrendered total of 28,231 Rebel soldiers paroled at Appomattox. He assigned 257 of the 698 to Humphreys’ Brigade. The park service’s parole records list a total of just 246 members of the four-regiment brigade who were issued paroles. In addition to the 85 the park service claims for the 13th Regiment, their list includes a first lieutenant serving as the brigade ordnance officer, 4 officers and 44 privates from the 21st Regiment, 4 officers and 44 privates from the 18th Regiment, and 3 officers and 62 privates from the 17th Regiment.

According to the Park Service:

“On the morning of April 12th the remnants of General Lee’s infantry, 21-22,000 men, marched as organized Confederate units for the last time.  They marched from their encampments, east of the village, across the Appomattox River and into Appomattox Court House where they stacked their arms before double rows of Federal infantry.

“There, along the Richmond-Lynchburg Stage Road the Confederates laid down what was left of their state and regimental battle flags – many emblazoned with the names of Chancellorsville, Gettysburg, Fredericksburg and other bloody fields of the last four years.  Before leaving for home the Southerners were issued parole passes.

“The pass was an oath – the Latin root of the word parole means ‘to give your word’- the men swore not to take up arms again ‘until paroled or properly exchanged.’   Thus, the men of Lee’s army were allowed to return to their homes on their own honor and these slips of paper would allow them safe passage through both Confederate and Union military lines on their way homes [sic].”

Independent historian H. Grady Howell, Jr., found that Captain Gwin R. Cherry of the 17th Mississippi Regiment was in command of what was left of Humphreys’ Mississippi Brigade at Appomattox. Howell indicates that the final records of the 18th and 21st regiments show that 20 officers and 231 privates of all four regiments were surrendered to General Grant’s army. Howell’s total presumably includes some who were captured at Sayler’s Creek.

“Stillness at Appomattox” was the title of the concluding volume of a popular trilogy history of the war by journalist Bruce Catton. Written from the victorious Union’s point of view, it won the Pulitzer Prize in 1954. It was the first history I recall reading about anything at all, a few years later when I was thirteen. The image of the stillness seems to have been used by many memoirists and historians after the war.

Krick quotes one Rebel veteran’s use of the word which perhaps best illustrates the idea behind it:

“The great heart of the noble Army of Northern Virginia had ceased to beat forever; and then there ‘was stillness as of death.’”

UPDATE: I made a serious error in this post originally, caused by my faulty search of the Park Service’s parole lists. I came up with only four privates and no officers of the 13th who surrendered at Appomattox. I have now corrected the error in the text to include five officers and 75 privates. And also enlarged the totals for the other three regiments of the brigade. I also removed the names of the four men originally posted and will, instead, include all 80 names in the near future. I wanted to get the totals corrected immediately. I regret the error very much and apologize for any inconvenience it may have caused any reader.

About Dick Stanley

Retired daily newspaperman
This entry was posted in Captured at Saylor's Creek, H. Grady Howell Jr., Humpreys Mississippi Brigade, Jess N. McLean, Mississippi, Muster Rolls, Newton Rifles, The Minute Men of Attala, The Pettus Guards, The Spartan Band and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.

8 Responses to The “stillness” at Appomattox

  1. Just FYI, my ancestor John F. Poore originally was not on the NPS list of soldiers paroled at Appomattox. I sent them a copy of the Compiled Service Record as evidence and they added his name. So the NPS does respond to documented evidence that a soldier was at the surrender.

  2. Dick Stanley says:

    Where did they add his name? It’s not on the Web site.

    Yes, indeed, a John F. Poore of the Newton Rifles is included on the parole lists. I have updated the post to reflect a serious error on my part which previously did not have your ancestor, nor more than four score others, listed. I’ll be adding his name and all 84 of the others as soon as possible. Sorry for the mistake.

    • John Waters says:

      My GGG Grandfather was a Appomattox and was in Company B of the 13th Miss. Inf. His name was Amos Talmadge Allen. He was a quartermaster/wagon driver. There is a documented account of his experience there watching General Lee leave the grounds. In it he describes all of the battles he was present at and his experiences with prominent leaders. His favorite was “fellow mason” Barksdale, but he also knew Lee. The description of Lee and his regiment after the surrender was sobering.

      • Dick Stanley says:

        Thanks for the comment, John. Indeed, Grady Howell has him (Amos T. Allen) as a private. McLean does not list him at all. Where is this “documented account”? Is it publicly available? If not, could you send me a copy for a future post here on the site? You can email me at cavalryscoutbooks@yahoo.com

      • John Waters says:

        Hi Dick, Thanks for the information. Allen is mentioned throughout McClean’s DVD on the 13th Miss. Here is a link directly to the letter I mentioned earlier: http://msgw.org/attala/allenletter.html

      • Dick Stanley says:

        Thanks for the reply. John. I should have said McLean does not list him in the beginning of his printed book under the company rosters. Wouldn’t have, I see now, having searched the DVD, since he didn’t enlist until August, 1862. Thereafter he is mentioned only as being assigned as a teamster. Thanks for the link. I will make a post of it here on the site in the near future.

  3. George Andrews says:

    Greetings to you,
    My g g grandfather, pvt. John Floyd Strebeck, of Co. K the Pettus Guards was paroled at Appomattox. The family oral tradition was that he was near literally a walking filthy scarecrow when he arrived back in Lauderdale county after having covered the distance on feet wrapped in rags.He had refused to surrender his rifle, and Yankee war trophys, which he had hidden to be retrieved later. After the war,he would carry the rifle with him always, even trying to take it into the Confederate Veteran’s home in Jackson in the early 20th century.This very rifle remains in the family to this day.John Floyd’s 2 nd enlistment( his brief first enlistment in the 41th Miss.is an interesting story in itself) was in May 1863 at Fredericksburg in time for Barksdale’s holding action during Chancellorsville.At Gettysburg,he was wounded during Barksdale’s charge through the peach orchard.He later recovered to fight at Spottsylvania, Cold Harbor, Rockfish Gap and Cedar Creek with some gaps in time during the war covered by absent with illness.

    John Floyd, and his brothers pvt.Sidney George Strebeck( 41th Mississippi) and his oldest brother, 3rd lieutenant Daniel Hays Strebeck were all small share farmers who did not own slaves. All were reputed to be excellent marksmen as were all of Barksdale’s men, I suspect from their required hunting skills to survive.Sidney George and Daniel Hays did not survive the war. The former dying in a Union prison hospital in Nashville of gangrene of the leg, and the later was killed during Longstreet’s siege of Nashville in the ill fated attack of Fort Sanders on Nov. 29, 1863.

    Is there a way to find more detailed information regarding specific wounds ,illnesses, and other mundane facts in the archives?

  4. Dick Stanley says:

    Hi George,

    Thanks for the comment and the colorful details.

    You should read all 24 entries here on the Pettus Guards (see sidebar for them) as I don’t recall your ancestors’ names right off hand but they may be in those entries. Interestingly, for what it’s worth, Grady Howell’s muster roll for the brigade has a John F. Strebeck in the Guards listed as a private. But no other info on him or the others.

    Regimental historian Jess McLean has no John F. Strebeck in his muster rolls for the Guards but does list him as “absent, sick” at Campbell’s Station (Tenn.) on Dec. 1, ’63. McLean does have a Daniel H. Strebeck in his muster roll of the Guards who rose from private to 5th sergeant to 3rd lieutenant and “mustered in at Marion by Lt. Spooner. Born in Miss., farmer, lived near Stonewall, 20 years old…” McLean has Daniel “mortally wounded” at Fort Sanders, so he’s probably buried in Knoxville. You should get a copy of McLean’s book if you don’t already have it, to check for more. It’s sold at Amazon.

    I can’t help you with the national archives, but I would think that whatever they have on an individual would show up in a request for records under his name. Well, actually, you might do well to submit several requests for the name at different times. Me and another relative submitted the same name at different times and one response had more than the other one.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s