Special Report

Civil War Artifacts in the Smithsonian

The museum collections house many items from the Civil War, including photographs, uniforms and personal diaries

Lincoln's Top Hat (National Museum of American History)

Appomattox Table and Chairs, National Museum of American History

Appomattox table and chairs
(National Museum of American History)

When one thinks of the Civil War, firearms and a whole lot of standing up usually come to mind, not tables and sitting down. Generals Ulysses S. Grant (Union) and Robert E. Lee (Confederacy) sat in these chairs to negotiate the terms of surrender to end the Civil War on April 9, 1865, at Wilmer McLean’s home in Appomattox Court House, Virginia. On this table, the victorious Grant drafted the terms of surrender. Grant had arrived about a half-hour after Lee, which may be why the defeated general, the taller man by four inches, was able to snag what looks to be the taller and more stable chair. Union officers removed both chairs and the table right after the terms were signed, but all three pieces made their way to the Smithsonian as separate donations during the early 1900s.

by Jeff Campagna


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