Did Ulysses S. Grant refuse Robert E. Lee’s sword?
It’s a great story, Buzzkillers. It affirms the idea of gentlemanly conduct between officers of opposing armies.
After his surrender in the parlour of the house of Wilmer McLean in the town of Appomattox Court House (that’s the actual name of the hamlet, by the way, Buzzkillers, “Appomattox Court House”) in April 1865, Confederate General Robert E. Lee offered his sword to Union General Ulysses S. Grant. Grant, in a gesture of reconciliation and honor between officers, refused to accept it.
That’s the story, anyway, and it fit in nicely later on with other stories of reconciliation and forgiveness between the Blue and the Grey. So it got repeated over and over.
Alas, it didn’t happen. Despite romantic press accounts that spread after the war, Lee never offered his sword and Grant, obviously, never refused it or returned it. In his memoirs, Grant wrote, “The much talked of surrendering of Lee’s sword and my handing it back, this and much more that has been said about it is the purest romance.”
But as you know, Buzzkillers, romantic historical stories make the best myths.