The final day of our explorations brought us to Appomattox Court House, the site where Robert E. Lee surrendered his troops to Ulysses Grant.   The spot is another beautiful site in the rolling hills of Virginia and we were there as the sun was setting and the day was coming to a close.  The little village is preserved much the same as it was in 1865 and most of the buildings are the original structures.

We walked along the trail where the Southern troops paraded past Gen. Chamberlain and surrendered their weapons.  We explored the McLean house where the generals sat and Grant wrote out the terms of the surrender.  It always amazes me  to think how compassionate Grant was with his terms, given that he was victor in this four year battle.  History tells that he refused to allow the Union troops to cheer or celebrate a victory, as anyone who fought for their beliefs should be respected.  Southern officers were allowed to keep their sidearms and anyone who had a horse could take it home with him for farming.  All that was required of the surrendering troops was that they vow not to raise arms against the Union again.

When we are faced with situations where there is victor and defeated, how do we respond?  It doesn’t have to be after an all out war – it could just be opinions of difference in the work place or among family members.

If defeated, I would like to think I would hold my head high and carry on, going home to quietly begin again.  If victor, I would like to think I would react like Grant and respect the defeated.  But somehow I know that is not how I would naturally act.  Visiting this spot has made me resolve to be more sympathetic and understanding, more compassionate and willing to embrace and respect a difference of opinion with dignity.

Grace surrounded me as I thought about all the lessons to be learned from this encounter in history.

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