Robert E. Lee’s sword is being returned to Appomattox, perhaps for the first time since he surrendered it to Ulysses S. Grant in April 1865, to be the centerpiece of a new museum examining the struggle to heal the nation following the War Between the States.
The uniform Lee wore the same day will also be on display March 31 when the Museum of the Confederacy opens an 11,700-square-foot museum within a mile of where Lee surrendered his Army of Northern Virginia, according to the Associated Press.
The Appomattox museum is the first in a regional system planned by the Richmond-based Museum of the Confederacy to make its vast collection of Confederate artifacts and manuscripts more accessible, the wire service added.
The other museums are planned for the Fredericksburg area and Hampton Roads, perhaps Fort Monroe.
All told, more than 450 uniforms, muskets, swords, documents, flags and other artifacts will be displayed at the Museum of the Confederacy in Appomattox.
“Appomattox is one of those words you can say anywhere in the world and people know what you’re talking about, like Waterloo,” said Waite Rawls, chief executive of the Museum of the Confederacy. “Appomattox is the very metaphor for the end of the Civil War and the reunification of the nation.”
The museum, located about 90 miles west of Richmond, will chart the start of the war, its end and its impact on everyone from women to freed slaves.
In returning to Appomattox, Lee’s French-made ceremonial sword is leaving the Richmond museum after nearly a century.
“The sword is seen at Lee’s side in many paintings of the momentous meeting with Grant at Appomattox to sign the document of surrender on April 9, 1865,” according to the Associated Press. “The Army of Northern Virginia’s formal surrender followed three days later, effectively ending the war that left about 630,000 dead.
“It is an enduring myth, however, that Lee offered his sword to Grant, and that his Union counterpart refused the traditional gesture of surrender,” it added.
The sword, nearly 3 1/2-feet-long, has a lion head on its pommel and gilded relief on its steel blade, with an ivory grip.
The sword and scabbard, along with Lee’s uniform, were given to the museum by the Confederate leader’s descendants.