clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

These sketches are the only visual record of Lee's surrender at Appomattox

Robert E. Lee rides away.
Robert E. Lee rides away.
Alfred Waud/Library of Congress
Phil Edwards is a senior producer for the Vox video team.

On this day 150 years ago, at 4 pm on April 9, 1865, the Confederacy surrendered to the Union. It began the end of the Civil War.

But there's no photographic record of the historic moment at Appomattox Court House. Photographs do exist from the time period — a few days after the surrender, Robert E. Lee posed for famed Civil War photographer Matthew Brady. But there are no photos of Lee's surrender at Appomattox itself.

That makes Alfred Waud's sketches of the surrender even more valuable — they're our best visual record of a historic American event.

Alfred Waud's drawings captured Appomattox

Alfred Waud

Alfred Waud, posing for a photograph as he sketched. (Library of Congress)

Waud was a British-born illustrator who came to the United States in 1850. His timing was perfectly suited to an era in which battlefield photography remained impractical. He quickly began sketching battlefield scenes, which engravers later used to make newspaper illustrations of key battles. He was chiefly employed by the New York Illustrated News.

During the war, Waud illustrated the First Battle of Bull Run and the Battle of Gettysburg, where he's believed to have created the only eyewitness drawing of Pickett's Charge.

But it's his drawings at Appomattox that are notable on the anniversary of the Confederate surrender. His illustrations depict the tragic, heartwarming, and surprising stories from the end of the war. A few of them are below:

Union soldiers shared rations with Confederate soldiers as they awaited the surrender:

Union and Confederate soldiers sharing rations.

Union and Confederate Soldiers sharing rations. (Alfred Waud/Library of Congress)

Confederate forces gave up their muskets and flags:

Confederate forces surrendering their muskets and colors.

Confederate forces surrendering their muskets and colors. (Alfred Waud/Library of Congress)

General Custer learned of the truce from a messenger:

Custer receives the news.

Custer receives the news. (Alfred Waud/Library of Congress)

And finally, Waud drew Robert E. Lee as he rode away:

Robert E. Lee rides away from the courthouse.

Robert E. Lee rides away from the courthouse. (Alfred Waud/Library of Congress)

You can see more of Waud's work here.

Sign up for the newsletter Today, Explained

Understand the world with a daily explainer plus the most compelling stories of the day.