This is primarily a travel blog in which I write about traveling in our motorhome. Our travels have

Nacogdoches, TX, United States
I began this blog as a vehicle for reporting on a 47-day trip made by my wife and me in our motorhome down to the Yucatan Peninsula and back. I continued writing about our post-Yucatan travels and gradually began including non-travel related topics. I often rant about things that piss me off, such as gun violence, fracking, healthcare, education, and anything else that pushes my button. I have a photography gallery on my Smugmug site (

Saturday, May 25, 2013

Appomattox and Memorial Day

I posted nothing on the blog yesterday so, no, you didn’t miss anything.  However, in my last posting, I failed to mention that much of our drive from Richmond to Lynchburg took us along a portion of the route known as “Lee’s Retreat”. The route actually taken by Gen. Lee and the Army of Northern Virginia after their evacuation of Petersburg. 

I also failed to describe the last 22 miles of our trip.  When our Rand McNally RV GPS instructed us to turn onto “Red House Road” my first thought was, “This has got to be a mistake!”  The road was extremely narrow, hilly, curvy, and had no centerline.  The motorhome was actually wider than our half of the road.  Luckily there was very little traffic, probably for a good reason, but when there was traffic it was necessary for me to put the passenger-side tires where the shoulder of the road would have been had there been one!  Top speed was about 25 mph, those last 22 miles taking about 45 minutes or so.  It would have been a lot of fun in a sports car, but it wasn’t in a 40-foot motorhome with a tow vehicle.

Lee’s plan was to march in a southwesterly direction, get around Grant’s army, and join up with the remainder of Gen. Joe Johnston’s army in North Carolina.  Lee hoped that once the two armies were combined they might be able to defeat Sherman (who was laying waste to Georgia and the Carolinas) and then turn around and defeat Grant.  The route to Washington DC would then be wide open allowing the Confederates to sue for peace, which would result in the Confederate States of America being allowed to exist as a separate entity.

Lee left Petersburg on the night of April 2-3, 1865.  Grant waited a day before beginning his pursuit, which gave Lee a one-day head start.  Lee had to maintain that lead if he was to get around Grant.  Lee kept the army moving with little time to rest, sleep, or eat (they had no food anyway).  A resupply point with rations for the men and fodder for the animals had been established at Amelia Court House, not quite half way.  Lee waited on the supplies for 24 hours, losing his one-day advantage over Grant.  Meanwhile, Union cavalry rushed forward and cut the rail line.  Lee abandoned the railroad and marched towards Lynchburg, another supply base.  Again, Union cavalry blocked Lee’s route.

Unfortunately, for the Confederates, the Union cavalry beat them to Lynchburg, captured the supplies, and held on until Grant’s infantry arrived.  Lee then moved towards Farmville where he had arranged to have more supplies sent on the one remaining rail line.  As fate would have it, when his army arrived in Farmville, there were no supplies.   The Union troops had already blocked the railroad.  Lee’s men had been mostly optimistic to this point, but now began to realize what was about to happen.  Many began to desert and go home.

By the time what was left of Lee’s army reached Appomattox they had marched over 100 miles in 5 days, arriving on the 6th day of their march, April 8, 1865.  During those 5 days, while marching 20 miles a day, they had fought one major battle and several smaller battles and skirmishes.  On May 6, 1865 Lee was soundly defeated at Sayler’s Creek, with 25% of his army being cut off from the main body and forced to surrender.

On April 9, 1865, Lee turned and made a desperate attempt to breakthrough Grant’s lines near Appomattox Court House.  Lee’s army was down to 28,000 men while Grant’s army numbered over 100,000 men. In the Battle of Appomattox Court House Lee lost about 500 killed and wounded to only 164 for Grant.  When Lee realized that he would not break Grant’s line he had no choice but to surrender.  It was 4 years to the day of the bombardment of Fort Sumter, that Gen. Robert E. Lee surrendered the Army of Northern Virginia to Gen. U.S. Grant. 

The American Civil War produced over 1 million casualties, including the deaths of 650,00 – 750,000 (records weren’t kept accurately) Americans, both North and South.  More Americans died in the civil war than in all of the other U.S. wars combined, from the Revolution to Afghanistan.  That would be the equivalent of the U.S. loosing 7 million soldiers over a 4-year period today.  It is impossible to what effect such a loss would have on the survivors, military and civilian.

On Memorial Day, when you stop to remember those Americans who have died for your country, please remember also, those who died during the Civil War, including those of the South.  They were all Americans, no matter their cause.

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