“After four years of arduous service, marked by unsurpassed courage and fortitude, the Army of Northern Virginia has been compelled to yield to overwhelming numbers and resources. I need not tell the brave survivors of so many hard-fought battles, who have remained steadfast to the last, that I have consented to the result from no distrust of them…I determined to avoid the useless sacrifice of those whose past services have endeared them to their countrymen…I bid you an affectionate farewell.”
This closed the book on one of the most remarkable armies in history. The Army of Northern Virginia had fought against long odds for four years and won most of the battles in which it engaged the Union’s Army of the Potomac. Along the way, Lee was lionized by his troops as few military leaders ever have been. The final surrender was a bitter pill for Lee to swallow, but the grace of his final communiqué to his troops exhibited the virtues that made him the single most enduring symbol of the Confederacy.