Grant received Lee’s message after midnight and replied early in the morning giving his terms for surrender:
General R.E. Lee, Commanding C.S.A.:
Your note of last evening in reply to mine of the same date, asking the conditions on which I will accept the surrender of the Army of Northern Virginia, is just received. In reply I would say that, peace being my great desire, there is but one condition I would insist upon,–namely, that the men and officers surrendered shall be disqualified for taking up arms against the Government of the United States until properly exchanged. I will meet you, or will designate officers to meet any officers you may name for the same purpose, at any point agreeable to you, for the purpose of arranging definitely the terms upon which the surrender of the Army of Northern Virginia will be received.
U.S. Grant, Lieutenant-General”
As the Confederate Army struggled west after its rearguard was dissolved at Sayler’s Creek, General George Armstrong Custer’s cavalry division was informed that an extensive supply train was waiting for Lee at Appomattox Station. Custer pressed forward and in a battle that was characterized by an absence of infantry — Union cavalry versus Confederate artillery — Custer rampaged through the trains killing or capturing about 1.500 men. It not only dispersed the trains that Lee desperately needed but it served notice on Lee that federal cavalry now sat squarely astride his route of withdrawal. Confused fighting continued until well after dusk. Lee replied to Grant’s message:
April 8th, 1865.
General: I received at a late hour your note of to-day. In mine of yesterday I did not intend to propose the surrender of the Army of Northern Virginia, but to ask the terms of your proposition. To be frank, I do not think the emergency has arisen to call for the surrender of this army, but, as the restoration of peace should be the sole object of all, I desired to know whether your proposals would lead to that end. I cannot, therefore, meet you with a view to surrender the Army of Northern Virginia; but as far as your proposal may affect the Confederate States forces under my command, and tend to the restoration of peace, I should be pleased to meet you at 10 A.M. to-morrow on the old state road to Richmond, between the picket-lines of the two armies.