On the afternoon of April 8th, 1865, after four years of intense fighting, Americans against Americans, Union and Confederate forces were closing in on Appomattox Station, where badly needed supplies awaited General Robert E. Lee's beleaguered Army of Northern Virginia.
At about 4 p.m., Union forces, with General George A. Custer's 2nd New York Cavalry at the head, began the Battle of Appomattox Station, seizing four train loads of ammunition, medical supplies and food.
As more troops arrived on both sides, Yankee and Rebel forces continued to maneuver and clash into the moonlit night. The final battle began about 9 a.m., April 9th, for Appomattox Court House. But by 11 a.m., General Lee knew the end was in sight for the remnants of his once proud Army of Northern Virginia, and the Confederacy. He sent out multiple flags of truce and sent word to General Grant asking to discuss terms for surrender.
Mid afternoon, Lee and Grant met at Wilmer McLean's house at Appomattox Station and the signing of the surrender papers was complete about 3:30 p.m.
Even though this wasn't the final battle, as it would take a few weeks for word to reach all of the armies, the Civil War was over. General Grant said, "The Confederates were now our countrymen, and we did not want to exult over their downfall," and he agreed to let General Lee's men go home, as long as they swore to never take up arms against the United States again. On April 12th, four years to the day after Confederate forces fired on Union soldiers at Fort Sumter, nearly 28,000 Confederate soldiers surrendered their weapons at Appomattox.
The Civil War was over.
Both armies made camp at Appomattox for the next several weeks as the Confederate soldiers were discharged, and Federal soldiers were either discharged or reassigned.
78 small lead or iron balls were packed in a hallow shell with a fuse that was ignited when the cannon was fired. Ideally, before the cannon was fired, the fuse was cut to the proper length (a crude timing mechanism) so that it would ignite the gunpowder inside the shell, causing it to explode over enemy troops. Imagine how terrifying it would have been, marching toward cannons firing any kind of round, but especially these kinds of rounds!
This lead projectile still has remnants of the dried, chalky clay-like dirt it was found in. It is a Minié ball (minie ball) and is a type of muzzle-loading, spin-stabilizing rifle bullet named after its co-developer, Claude Etienne Minié. It came to prominence in the Crimean War (1853 to 1856) but Minié-derived weapons became the most common firearm in the American Civil War due to their accuracy.
The bore of this new rifle had grooves (“rifling”) in it which slowly twisted as they went from the back to the front of the weapon. The back of the bullet had a conical base with three rings which expanded when the gun powder was ignited. The base then filled into the barrel’s rifling which gave the projectile a spin, thus making it much more accurate. The adoption of this ammunition allowed soldiers to reload their rifled muskets faster and fire them more accurately. This increased the lethality of weapons used on the battlefield and effectively rendered conventional line infantry tactics obsolete.
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