Lee’s General Order No. 9 sells for $98,500

Confederate General Robert E. Lee’s Farewell Address to the Army of Northern Virginia, also known as General Order No. 9, sold for nearly $100,000 at auction Tuesday in New York.

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.

20 thoughts on “Lee’s General Order No. 9 sells for $98,500

  1. We have in our possession an original copy of order #9 and we are going to sell it at auction. It has been in our possession over 50 years. We realize this is a valuable piese of history. We will sell it to the highist bidder. it will more than likely be sold at auction house.

  2. We found this document in a very old house we [our family] moved into in the 1950’s along with several other papers and old pictures .Our mother keep several things but discarded most of the papers and pictures .Had we known how valuable those items could have been ,well who knows. The area where we lived is now all industrial and all housing was torn down.

    • Wow, makes you wonder what might have been in among the papers that were thrown away, doesn’t it? At least your mother was wise enough to recognize the value of the items she kept; far too many people have no sense of history and throw away anything that’s dated. Good luck with your efforts to sell the item.

  3. I also have one but it is very faded which concerns me. My great great grandfather was Colonel Walter Herron Taylor, aide to Robert E. Lee.

  4. I was given this document by my father in law, he was a conservative by trade.He related to me, this is ,the original document, given to Brigadier General William h. Stevens chief engineer of the Confederate Army. How can I verify this?

    • I don’t know where you live, but I would find an archivist if there’s no reputable historical auctioneers nearby. If you have a large university nearby, they likely have a history department with someone on staff who might be able to provide some assistance. Good luck.

  5. I just found the same document, order no 9, in my dad’s attic. It had been in his mother-in-laws possession and when she passed it got put in a box. Perfect condition. Just had it looked at by 2 archivists who are certain it is authentic. Would like to sell it to a historical society or museum or someplace where it will be seen and appreciated. Any suggestions? Am in Massachusetts.

    • I would consider contact Heritage Auctions of Dallas to see if they have any interest. These days museums appear to be increasingly using auctions as a means to supplement their displays. You might contact the Museum of the Confederacy in Richmond and ask them, as well. They may be able to steer you in a more precise direction. It’s interesting that a copy ended up in Massachusetts. Good luck.

    • It appears there are several originals. Robert E. Lee apparently had a number of copies of this document drawn up and signed each of them, then gave them to key members of his staff, if I understand correctly. I have no idea how many exactly, however.

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