On the night of April 9, the day when Confederate General Robert E. Lee surrendered his Army of Northern Virginia at Appomattox Court House, he sat at the fire outside his headquarters tent with some of his officers and spoke emotionally of his feelings for his men. He instructed his military secretary, Colonel Charles Marshall, to prepare a farewell order for the troops.
The next morning was rainy and busy with the surrender details and Marshall, who had accompanied Lee to the surrender at the McLean House the day before, had not accomplished much on the order by midmorning. When Lee found out he bustled Marshall into an ambulance and posted an orderly to prevent anyone from interrupting him. Marshall shortly presented Lee with a draft from which Lee removed a paragraph and made a few other verbal changes. The edited order was given to one of the clerks in the adjutant-general’s office to write out in ink, which was then copied. All the copies were signed by Lee to be given to the senior Confederate officers of the army. Many other copies were made and distributed to the men, and many of these were brought to Lee by soldiers, both at appomattox and later, which he graciously signed.
Here is the text of Lee’s Farewell Address, also known as General Order No. 9:
Headquarters, Army of Northern Virginia, 10th April 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.
R. E. Lee, General, General Order No. 9