The story of Gen. Robert E. Lee offering his sword to Grant at Appomattox on 9 April 1865 has been discounted even by Northern sources. A postwar letter from Grant to Mr. T.D. Jeffries, in reply to the question, was: "There was no demand made for Gen. Lee's sword, and no tender of it offered."
Bernhard Thuersam, Chairman
North Carolina War Between the States Sesquicentennial Commission
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Farce of Lee's Offer of Sword to Grant
J.F.J. Caldwell writes from Greenwood, S.C.:
"I wish to call attention to the story of Gen. Grant's refusal to accept the surrender of Gen. Lee's sword at Appomattox, a story without a particle of foundation in fact, and utterly unreasonable, yet widely circulated by Northern writers and speakers, and credited by a good many people in the South.
Col. Charles Marshall, who was, I believe, the only officer accompanying Gen. Lee on that occasion, has declared that nothing of that kind occurred. Dr. J. William Jones, in "Personal Reminiscences of Gen. Robert E. Lee," at page 303, reports Gen. Lee as making a similar statement during a conversation with a company of friends as follows: "Gen. Grant returned you your sword, did ne not General? . . . The old hero . . . replied, "No sir; he did not. He had no opportunity of doing so. I was determined that the side arms of officers should be exempt from the terms of surrender, and of course I did not offer mine. All that was said about swords was that Gen. Grant apologized to me for not wearing his own sword, saying it had been taken off in his baggage, and he had been unable to get it in time."
But we need not depend solely on the testimony of those men. The well-ascertained circumstances of the situation flatly and irreconcilably contradict the story. The two generals met to consider the question of surrender. It would have been contemptibly nonsensical and pusillanimous of Gen. Lee to tender his sword before the terms were agreed upon. By the terms they did agree upon all Confederate officers were to retain their side arms and other private property. There was less reason than ever for the surrender of the sword. No one except a scared coward or the most truckling toadeater would have dreamed of committing voluntarily such an act of self-humiliation."
(Farce of Lee's Offer of Sword to Grant, J.F.J. Caldwell, Confederate Veteran, May, 1900, pg. 204)