There are no telephones, so in the North no one knows what is going on. There are rumors that Sherman is losing. But when he captures the city of Atlanta, word quickly reaches Washington. It is clear that the North is winning and that the war will soon be over.
At the beginning of April 1865, Confederate troops set fire to supplies in Richmond and retreat from the city . Lee's tired, shoeless army races west. Grant wants to surround Lee's army so there will be no way out. And finally he does that at a place in Virginia called Appomattox Court House .
On April 9, 1865, Robert E. Leeproud, erect, and wearing his handsomest uniformwalks into the parlor of farmer Wilmer McClean's house . He has come to surrender to U.S. Grant . Grant later remembers: "I felt sad at the downfall of a foe who had fought so long and so valiantly, and had suffered so much for a cause, though that cause was, I believe, one of the worst for which a people ever fought ."
Grant writes out the official surrender terms. They are kinder than anyone expected. The Southern soldiers can go home, andas long as they give their promise not to fight against the country againthey will not be prosecuted for treason. They must surrender their guns, but they can take their horses. Lee speaks to one of Grant's aides, a Native American named Lt. Colonel Ely Parker Ely Parker. He says, "I'm glad to see one real American here." Parker replies: "We are all Americans."
Robert E. Lee, brave as he is, still doesn't seem to understand why so many men and women have been willing to fight and die in this terrible war. "We are all Americans": It is those words. Our nation began with a declaration that said all men are created equal. That powerful idea excited people all over the world. But our Constitution had not guaranteed that equality. This Civil Warterrible as it waswill cause the Constitution to be changed for the better. Three amendments will soon be passed: the Thirteenth, the Fourteenth, and the Fifteenth. They will make sure that we are all Americans. They will give the nation a new birth of freedom .