This video is the fifth in a series of cultural landscape videos produced by the National Park Service (NPS) Olmsted Center for Landscape Preservation (OCLP). The video is made possible through the efforts of digital media production intern Vanessa Hartsuiker, whose internship with the Olmsted Center was supported in partnership with the American Conservation Experience.
To view more videos in the series click here.
Robin Snyder: On April 9th 1865, the last shots of the war in Virginia echoed across this landscape, and at that point, Lee knew that there was nothing more to do than surrender his army.
Patrick Schroeder: Civil wars don’t typically end like our Civil War, General Grant was very generous with the terms allowing the Confederate soldiers to go home. Grant even fed the Confederate soldiers. He also gave them transportation on ships and railways, which they could use with the parole passes they received.
Alfred L. Jones III: I think it’s important to remember the history of the surrender, because it is such a pivotal turning point, it’s monumental in the history of our country and what we would become.
Robin Snyder: After the war what happened to this village in its landscape, is an interesting question. Even as a surrender meeting was ending, people had an acknowledgment of what was taking place there and they begin to take mementos from Mr. McLean’s parlor.
Most visitors are surprised to see that it’s not just a courthouse. They expect to see a courthouse. Some are aware that there was the McLean house, and that was the area of significance where the surrender took place, but they are transformed as they walk up Market Lane and look around at this historic village. Most visitors do not expect to see an actual village where we have different businesses and outbuildings and homes that are associated with people who lived here when the war came to their door.
Brian Eick: So the park was established, I believe, in 1935, it wasn’t really until the 1940s that work really began on the park, so there was visitors that were coming here but it wasn’t up until about the 1963 master plan, that really created the park as we know it now.
Robin Snyder: The park completed a Cultural Landscape Report in 2009 with the support of the Olmsted Center for Landscape Preservation and that report of course lays out the significance and what we are here to take care of and what we’re here to preserve.
Patrick Schroeder: This is something we need, it’s a guideline for the park of what could be done or what should be done. It presented many solutions to obstacles we faced and to have a study like that, a resource at our hands is beneficial not only for us now, but for the future of the park and the people that take care of this place afterwards.
Robin Snyder: It is a powerful place and you sense that, the visitor senses that, even as they walk up Market Lane from the parking lot. They’re taken from 2018 and they walk and all of a sudden up that hill, they’re in 1865.
Patrick Schroeder: Appomattox Court House National Historical Park is important to me because I feel that I am helping people remember a part of what’s becoming our forgotten history, many people do not recall what happened at Appomattox, even though it is one of the most important events in American history.
During the surrender meeting, you see, Parker was a Seneca Indian chief and he was on Grant’s staff and he is the one that actually wrote out Grants final terms and he was said to have the best penmanship on Grant’s staff, and when Lee was introduced to Parker, he said it was good to see one real American here and Parker said “General, we’re all Americans” and that was what that meeting was about. After four years of fighting, two sides were again going to be all Americans.
Robin Snyder is the Superintendent of Appomattox Courthouse National Historical Park.
Patrick Schroeder is an historian at Appomattox Courthouse National Historical Park.
Alfred L. Jones III is a local historian
Brian Eick is the Natural Resource Manager at Appomattox Courthouse National Historical Park.