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Appomattox Court House Lesson for Kids: Facts, Battle & Surrender

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Instructor: Philip McMurry

Philip has taught college history, English, and political science, and he has a doctorate in American history.

In this lesson, we will learn about the amazing historical coincidence that occurred when the Confederacy surrendered to the Union at Appomattox Court House, Virginia, in April 1865. Updated: 06/13/2020

An Amazing Coincidence

Do you know what a ''coincidence'' is? It's when two seemingly unrelated events happen but are connected by pure chance. It would be like you and your best friend wearing the exact same clothes to school, even though you hadn't planned it! Well, what happened at Appomattox Court House during the American Civil War was another example of coincidence.

During the first major battle of the Civil War, called the Battle of Bull Run, the Confederacy needed a house for their headquarters. The house they chose belonged to a man named Wilmer McLean. During the battle, a Union cannonball hit the house, causing some damage. Wilmer was afraid his property would be damaged further, so he moved his family 120 miles south to a town in Virginia called Appomattox Court House.

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  • 0:04 An Amazing Coincidence
  • 0:55 The Siege of Petersburg
  • 1:40 Heading South
  • 2:10 Appomattox Court House
  • 2:46 The Surrender
  • 3:24 Lesson Summary
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The Siege of Petersburg

As the Civil War dragged on, the Union pushed to capture the Confederate capital of Richmond, Virginia, but failed repeatedly. Finally, the Union Army under Ulysses S. Grant, who was one of the Union's top generals, set up a siege of a small town just south of Richmond called Petersburg. The Confederate Army under Robert E. Lee, who was one of the Confederacy's top generals, dug in, trying desperately to protect Richmond from attack. The siege lasted for months.

During that time, Grant's army grew as the Union enlisted African Americans to fight. Meanwhile, Lee's army was shrinking due to illness and soldiers deserting. Finally, Lee couldn't defend the city any longer.

Heading South

Lee hoped to join his army with other Confederate armies further to the south. On April 2, 1865, they quickly moved south, hoping to make it into North Carolina. However, the Union Army followed the Confederates with their cavalry. The Union kept up the pressure, capturing Confederate soldiers and their supplies. As Lee approached a small town in southern Virginia, he received a message from Grant suggesting that Lee surrender. Lee refused.

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