Drafted by an aide on the night of April 9-10, 1865, a few hours after Lee had surrendered, General Order No. 9 is among the best-known documents of the War Between the States.
“No other words, spoken or written, had a more heartening effect on the veterans of the proud but weary Army of Northern Virginia,” according to author Joseph E. Fields.
In the hours following the surrender, Lee and his aide-de-camp, Lt. Col. Charles Marshall, discussed what the Confederate leader wished to say in his farewell message to his men.
Marshall produced a draft the following morning and Lee edited it, making a few minor changes and striking out a paragraph that he felt was inappropriate.
Marshall then gave it to one of the clerks in the adjutant-general’s office to rewrite in ink. Afterward, Marshall took the copy to Lee, who signed it.
The order, which pre-auction estimates had selling for between $60,000 and $80,000, ended up being auctioned off for $98,500, which included the buyer’s premium.
Sold by a private collector, the buyer wasn’t immediately revealed.
Lee’s General Order No. 9 was distributed the day after he and Grant met at a private residence in Appomattox Court House, where Lee signed the final surrender documents after his depleted and haggard troops failed to break through overwhelming Federal forces.
General Order No. 9 reads as follows:
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 this result from no distrust of them, But feeling that valor and devotion could accomplish nothing that could compensate for the loss that would (must have) attend(ed) the continuance of the contest, I determined to avoid the useless sacrifice of those whose past services have endeared them to their countrymen.
“By the terms of the agreement, Officers and men can return to their homes and remain until exchanged. You will take with you the satisfaction that proceeds from the consciousness of duty faithfully performed and I earnestly pray that a merciful God will extend to you His blessing and protection.
With [an] unceasing admiration of your constancy and devotion to your country, and a grateful remembrance of your kind and generous consideration of myself, I bid you (all) an affectionate farewell.
Lee’s General Order No.9 quickly became one of the most memorable documents of the entire four-year conflict, according to Christie’s.
Manuscript copies of the order were prepared by Lee’s aides and signed by Lee for presentation to ranking corps commanders and chiefs of departments of the staff in the Army of Northern Virginia. Some individual officers evidently made copies and brought them to Lee to be signed.