150 years ago in a little courthouse in Virginia, there were two men. These men had known each other since their college days. They had fought against each other for four long years in a war that cost the nation money, time, energy and lives. It was a war that started in a little fort in the harbor of Charleston, South Carolina was coming to an end in that courthouse in Virginia.

The war that nearly tore a nation apart, a war that pitted a South that was agricultural against a North that was industrial and better educated, a war that killed not just those that fought in it but those that wanted nothing to do with it, was about to come to an end. It was a chance to a nation that could have been a “house divided against itself,” (the one thing that Lincoln didn’t just hate, he loathed it) to come back together, to exhale, if you will.

The Civil War, the War Between The States, the War of Northern Agression. Whatever name you want to call it, that war had come to an end, when those two men, who were now older, with some gray in their hair and beards and a little heavier, met again. This time, that meeting took place in Appomattox County, Virginia, some 95 miles away from Richmond.

They talked about the battles that they had fought and Lee had mentioned that he remembered Grant from their time during the Mexican War. Grant did not but was respectful and listened to the older Lee. Eventually, the time to talk about terms of surrender came and they discussed that in great lenght. Grant agreed that the Confederates could go back to their homes without being punished and could keep their weapons. Lee agreed to the terms and with that, the Civil War had come to an end. Lee later spoke to his soldiers and told them “if you are half as good as citizens as you are soldiers, you will do well.”

Four years of death. Four years of destruction. Four years of starvation were about to come to an end. It would not be an easy peace as the North would eventually punish the South for their “transgressions” with regard to slavery and the Civil War. These men, Lee born in Virginia and Grant in Ohio, had some things in common, aside from being graduates of West Point. They fought in a war that could have divided a nation into two. It was a war that hit close to home in the literal and figurative sense of the word and a war that would divide friend against friend and family member versus family member.

150 years ago, a war came to end not in a grand hall but in a little courthouse in Virginia. While it took the nation a long time to recover from the wounds of war, America would do just that, even though the struggle would take a lot longer than some thought.

President Abraham Lincoln spoke to a crowd outside the White House, saying, “We meet this evening, not in sorrow but in gladness of heart.” (It was the last public address Lincoln would deliver.) Lincoln would not live long to see the peace that he hoped for, dying at the hands of a sociopath named John Wilkes Booth. A war that nearly divided a young nation had come to an end. Peace, which was sought after from the very first shot at Fort Sumter to Appomattox County Court House, could finally exhale.

Two men with so much in common met in that courthouse. They fought alongside each other and then against each other. Now just a few days before Easter, America, thanks in part to Grant and Lee’s encounter, made sure that the United States would be just that, united and not a house divided. It would not be an easy peace and there would be resentment toward those that fought and those that were set free. It was a war that almost tore a nation apart. In the end, two men, West Point graduates (Lee with an almost perfect record at the academy, while Grant struggled) became shepherds to bring the country back together. Four years, 750,000 dead (some of them on the battlefield, others through bombardment and or/disease) cities, property and livestock destroyed.

Grant and Lee. One a Virginian, the other from Ohio. They began the process to bring a nation back together, to bind the wounds, to keep the house together and not divided. In the end, they did their job.

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