LEE, ROBERT, E., General, C.S.A. Document signed ("R E Lee Genl") as General Commanding Army of Northern Virginia, addressed at bottom to Private Thomas Williams White, Company A., 17th Virginia Infantry, "H[ea]d Q[uarte]rs Army of the Northern Virginia," 10 April 1865.
1 page, 4to, written on blue stationery, staining to one small portion of page (slightly obscuring, but not obliterating, text), small traces of wear along the two horizontal folds neatly repaired, several small light stains in central portion, not affecting legibility.
LEE'S ELOQUENT FAREWELL TO HIS VANQUISHED ARMY AT APPOMATTOX: A COPY ADDRESSED TO A MEMBER OF HIS HEADQUARTERS STAFF, PROBABLY AT THE TIME OF THE SURRENDER
A very attractive copy, probably signed at Appomattox, of Lee's General Orders No. 9, addressed to a Confederate private who served on his Headquarters staff. Like copies of the Orders known to have been signed for officers the day of the fateful surrender, this copy is headed at top left "General Orders No. 9."; in layout and style it resembles the well-known copy addressed to General W.H. Stevens (from the Sang and Middendorf collections, sold at Christie's on 17 May 1989, lot 292, $88,000.) Even more significantly, this copy is signed with Lee's rank, a strong indication that it was signed at Appomattox, for Lee almost invariably did not include his rank when signing later, "souvenir" copies.
"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 would compensate for the loss that must have attended the continuance of the contest I determined to avoid the useless sacrifices 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 increasing admiration of your constancy and devotion to your country and a grateful rememberance of your kind and generous consideration for myself, I bid you all an affectionate farewell."
Lee signed the final surrender documents on Sunday, 9 April 1865, in the parlor of the McLean house, just north of Appomattox Courthouse. The next day, Lee outlined to his aide-de-camp, Lieutenant Colonel Charles Marshall, the ideas he wished to express in his farewell message to the army he had led since assuming command in June 1862. Marshall produced a draft, which Lee edited and revised, and this became the General Order No. 9, one of the best-known documents of the entire War. Manuscript copies of the General Order No. 9 signed by the Commander were signed for presentation to the ranking divisional or brigade commanders in the Army of Northern Virginia.
The recipient of this copy, Thomas Williams White, was from a well-known Alexandria, Virginia family, and may well have known the Lees, his near neighbors, before the war. When the war broke out, White left his job as a bookkeeper for the American Coal Co. to enlist in the Alexandria Riflemen. He served as a clerk in Lee's Headquarters from 1862-1865, signed a parole at Appomattox Court House on 9 April and took the oath of amnesty on 12 July (his paroled pensioner's pass is in Southern Historical Society Papers, vol. xv, p. 472). After the war, White resided in Alexandria and was employed in the First National Bank. He died on 17 February 1918 and was buried in Alexandria's Methodist cemetary.