Appomattox Court House Audio Tour, Beta Version
Start your walking tour
You are standing near the flagpole of Appomattox Court House National Historical Park. At the base of the flagpole is a display showing a map of the Village and information about the park. Extending north of the flagpole is the gravel Market Lane. Follow this path uphill to the historic Appomattox Courthouse on your right at the top of the hill. Along the way stop at the display for the Isbell House on your right. The McLean House, site of the surrender, will be on your left.
There is a black banner across the top of the display labeled "Appomattox Court House." (Note that "Court House" is spelled with two words signifying the reference to a village, not a building.) There are two color images within the banner depicting U. S. Grant on the left, and Robert E. Lee on the right. The images face each other.
The text below the banner reads: Here, amidst the once quiet streets and lanes of Appomattox Court House, Lee, Grant, and their tired armies enacted one of the great dramas in American History.
Appomattox was first called Clover Hill - just a stage coach stop along the Stage Road linking Richmond and Lynchburg. In 1845 the village became the Appomattox County seat - home to the courthouse and about 100 people. Then, in 1865, it became one of the most famous places in the world.
Today the village of Appomattox Court House has been partially restored. Its lanes and lots look much as they did in April 1865. Some of the village's historic buildings reman, while others have been rebuilt. Together they comprise one of America's most vivid historic landscapes.
Text quotation: " General, this is deeply humiliating; but I console myself with the thought that the whole country will rejoice at this day's business." A Confederate during the surrender ceremony April 12, 1865.
This concludes the text at the top of the panel. Below is a map of the village showing the existing buildings and outlines of the footprints of buildings no longer standing.
Below the map is a block of text on the left, a sepia historic photo of the McLean House in the center, and a color painting representing the signing of the surrender terms on the right.
The text follows: The central event of the Appomattox Campaign was the meeting between Lee and Grant at the McLean House on April 9 (right). But in fact, the final chapter of the war spanned several days and involved the entire village and surrounding fields. Start your visit at the reconstructed courthouse, about 100 yards in front of you (map, above).
Description of the images: The image immediately right of the text is a black and white (sepia) photograph of the front of the McLean house. Trunks of large tress run across the photograph from let to right. The top two stories of the brick house are visible. A set of stairs leads to the wide verandah that runs across the front. Seated at the top of the stairs are four people. Two more are seated on a bench behind the four. From left to right the people are identified as (in front) Lula McLean, seven years old, Virginia McLean, two years old, and Mrs. McClean dressed in black. On the bench are the photographer Timothy O'Sullivan and an unidentified woman. Another unidentified woman stands at the far-right end of the porch. The two are presumed to be the older McLean daughters.
The image on the far right is a color painting purporting to represent the signing of the surrender terms. Robert E. Lee is seated on the left at a marble topped table signing a document. Looking over his shoulder and holding a sheaf of paper is Lt. Col Charles Marshal. Lee's aide and the only other Confederate officer in the room. Across from Lee, Ulysses S. Grant is seated at a small oval table looking intently at Lee. Behind Grant are eight Federal officers. They are identified from left to right as : General Philp Sheridan, Lt. Col Orville Babcock, Lt. Col Horace Porter, General E.O. Ord, General Seth Rawlins. Captain Robert Todd Lincoln (seated) Col Ely Parker and General George Custer (who was not actually in the meeting.)
At the bottom of the panel is a black and white sketch of the village. Left of the image is this text: The village (below) as it appeared just after the surrender. The McLean House is at right, the courthouse in the center. In 1892 the courthouse burned and the old town died. "New" Appomattox grew up along the railroad a few miles south of here.
On April 9, 1865, in the village of Appomattox Court House, Confederate General Robert E. Lee surrendered his Army of Northern Virginia to General Ulysses S. Grant. And America's Civil War would come to an end. This audio tour will guide you through much of the restored village. As you approach an included site or marker your device will alert you. The app includes photographs of the buildings, information on each and an audio description of the image.
The tour starts in the lower parking lot at the flagpole.
Built 1848 Restored 1949
On your right is the Isbell House. Two brothers built what we know refer to as the Isbell House house in 1850. One of them, Thomas Bocock, was a US Congressman. He later served as the only speaker of the Confederate Congress. Lewis Isbell, Bocock's law partner, bought the house in 1861 and lived there with an enslaved woman named Kitty and her four children, all fathered by Isbell. Bocock lobbied against secession warning that it would lead to a "collision .. that would drench the continent in blood." Isbell was an ardent secessionist and as the Appomattox representative to Virginia's secession commission voted twice for Virginia to secede.
Not open to the public.
There is a wayside sign on the fence in front of the Isbell House.
Continue up the hill to the Courthouse.
The photograph shows the front and right side of this white frame three-story building. A red brick chimney is on the right side and the top of the left chimney is visible above the wood shingle roof. Stairs lead up to a porch on main floor. The top floor has a door leading to a flat porch roof. The house is surrounded with a white picket fence. A white frame out building is visible to the right of the house. Large hardwood trees frame the house. In the background white cumulus clouds reflect the setting sun.
Isbell House Wayside Panel
A wayside panel is fixed to the fence in front of the Isbell House.
Description: At the top of the panel is a block of text on the left and an historic black and white photograph to the right. The text follows: Henry and Thomas Bocock built this house in 1848. Henry was the County Clerk (1845-1860.) Thomas served as US Congressman from 1847 to March, 1861 when he became to only Speaker of the Confederate House of Representatives. Prior to 1860, Thomas moved four miles northeast to a house he dubbed 'Wildway.' Lewis D. Isbell then occupied the house. Isbell, Commonwealth's Attorney (1847-1867) represented Appomattox at both secession conventions in March and April, 1861, where he voted for secession. A bachelor, Isbell had four sons with an enslaved woman, his housekeeper Louisa 'Kitty' (Patterson) Isbell. Following the war be became the local Freedmen's Bureau agent following the departure of the Federal Provost Guard. Isbell served as a judge from 1868-1872 before moving to Missouri where he died in 1889.
Photo description: In the upper right-hand corner is a black and white photograph dated 1901. It shows the front of the Isbell house shaded by large hardwood trees on either side. Three unidentified children are standing at the base of the house's steps. Below that photograph are 4 historic black and white photos in oval frames. The people in the photo are identified (left to right) as : Henry Bocock, Thomas Bocock, Lewis Daniel Isbell and Louisa "Kitty" Isbell a Black woman.
Henry Bocock is mustachioed and wears a suit jacket with a ceremonial sash about his neck. Two medals are pinned on his left chest. Thomas Bocock is wearing a dark jacket and high cleric's collar. His dark beard extends over the collar. Lewis Isbell wears a full beard and mustach and dark vest under his coat. "Kitty" stares straight at the camera with a stern look. Her white hair is close cropped. She has a large white lace collar.
In the lower left hand corner is a black and white historic photo identified as Lt. Col Augustus Root. He has a short dark mustache and his dark hair is neatly brushed back. He is wearing a federal officer's tunic buttoned to the neck. His shoulder epaulets identify his rank as a colonel. A campaign ribbon is pinned to his left chest. To the right of Root's photograph is the following text:
After being killed along the Richmond-Lynchburg Stage Road on the night of April 8, 1865, Lt. Col Augustus Root of the 15th New York Cavalry was buried in front of the house. Disinterred in December, 1865, his family reburied in Syracuse, New York.
At the bottom of the panel is the following text: The house serves as Park Headquarters and is not open to the public. You are welcome to explore outside the house.Continue up the hill to the Courthouse.
The Historic Appomattox County Courthouse
Appomattox County Courthouse
Built 1846 Reconstructed 1964
Brick. 2 story.
The original Courthouse was built in 1846 and was destroyed by fire in 1892. The building was reconstructed for the 1965 Centennial Commemoration of the end of the Civil War. The building houses the park Visitor Center, museum exhibits, a movie theater and restrooms. Visitors can pick up maps and brochures and get information on daily activities from park staff.
Upon leaving the Courthouse head west on the old Stage Road to the McLean House. You will pass the Meeks General Store on your right.
The photograph is of the front of the Courthouse looking east from the Stage Road. The two story red brick building has a metal roof painted red. Stairs lead to the second story. A gable roof extends over the second story porch. A wood rail fence surrounds the building. Two large hardwood trees frame the front of the building. The gravel Stage Road circles the Courthouse.
Meeks Store (Original)
Built 1850 (?), Restored 1964
Frame with stone and brick foundation. Siding is painted light green.
At the time of the surrender Francis Meeks operated a general store and post office here. The Meeks' son, Lafayette, enlisted in the Confederate Army in May 1861 and soon died of Typhoid. He is buried in the field behind the store. The store is open through the front and left side doors.
Continue west on the Stage Road to the McLean House.
The photograph shows the front and left side of the two-story structure. A gable roof extends over the front porch which extends across the width the building. A side porch and door is at the left rear. A brick chimney rises through the center of the wood shingled roof. The building is painted a light green with dark green shutters on the first floor windows.
Woodson Law Office
Woodson Law Office (Original)
Built 1856 Restored 1959
John Woodson bought this office in 1856 and practiced law here until he joined the Confederate Army and died of disease in 1864. The office is typical of the several law offices that surrounded the Courthouse. Most offices were single practitioners.
Continue east on the Stage Road around the Courthouse to the Clover Hill Tavern.
The photograph shows the front and left side of this small single room building. The front door is centered and a single window with a dark green shutter is centered on the left side wall. The wood siding is painted a pumpkin color. A brick path and white picket fence are in front. A single chimney rises in the back over a dark metal roof. The Meeks stable is visible in the background.
The McLean House
McLean House (Reconstructed)
Brick, 3 stories Built 1848, Reconstructed 1948
On April 9, 1865, Gen. Robert E. Lee surrendered the Army of Northern Virginia to Lt. Gen. Ulysses S. Grant in the parlor of this house. Lee’s aide Lt. Col. Charles Marshall chose this site. The house, built in 1848, survived under several owners until 1893, when speculators dismantled it in a failed money-making venture. In the 1940s, using the speculators’ plans and specifications, and archeological evidence, the National Park Service rebuilt the house on its 1848 foundation.
Behind the house are the Summer Kitchen and Enslaved Cabin. Both are open for visitors.
When leaving the McLean House by the front gate, turn right and walk past the Meeks Store and turn left to the Woodson Law Office.
The color photograph shows the top two stories of the brick McLean House taken from the left, or east side. The roof of the ice house is visible in the foreground and the white log buildings of the summer kitchen and enslaved cabin are visible in the rear of the house. A green grass field leads up to the house and large hardwood trees are visible in the background. A white picket fence surrounds the house. The front of the McLean House has a wide veranda across the front with white square columns and a white railing around the flat roof of the veranda. There are chimneys on each side of the house. The sky is pale blue.
McLean Wayside Panel
There is a wayside panel affixed to the picket fence in front of the McLean House. In the top half of the panel is historic pencil sketch of the McLean House and Raine Tavern. Another black and white sketch of General Lee riding away on his horse Traveler is superimposed in the upper right hand corner. The following text is at the top left hand corner: This sketch by freelance artist Eustace Collett was made in April 1865. The building at left - no longer standing - was at that time an abandoned tavern.
Text as follows extends across the bottom of the panel: At midday on April 9, 1865, General Robert E. Lee rode into this yard, dismounted, and disappeared into the McLean House. Grant, surrounded by generals and staff officers, soon followed. Dozens of officers, horses, and onlookers waited outside. After 90 minutes, Lee and Grant emerged. To the silent salutes of Union soldiers, Lee rode back through the village - to his defeated army.
The home that hosted the surrender meeting was one of the best in Appomattox. Built in 1948, it had since 1892 been owned by businessman Wilmer McLean. The house became a sensation after the surrender. Union officers took some mementos, and in 1893 it was dismantled for display in Washington, D.C. But that display never happened and the National Park Service reconstructed the building on its original site in the 1940s.
Clover Hill Tavern
Clover Hill Tavern (Original)
Built 1819 Restored 1954
Brick. 2 stories.
The Clover Hill Tavern is the oldest building in the park. Built by the Paterson family in 1819 the Tavern served as a main stagecoach stop along the Richmond-Lynchburg Stage Road. The Tavern played a significant role in the surrender of Lee's Army of Northern Virginia. This where the federal army printed 30,000 parole passes for the Confederates. The room on the left as you enter displays how those passes were printed. Some original passes and artifacts are displayed in the room on the right. Behind the Tavern is the historic kitchen, now the bookstore and gift shop. To the right of the kitchen the enslaved quarters now house accessible restrooms. To the left of the Tavern is the restored Guest House. (Not open to the public.)
When leaving the tavern turn left and continue east on the stage road to the Jail.
The photograph depicts the front of the 2 and one half story brick tavern. Bare hardwood trees frame the building. A white picket fence runs across the middle of the frame. A covered porch extends across the front of the building. There are 4 windows with green shutters on the second floor and three windows and the entrance door on the porch. The two-story brick kitchen - now the bookstore - is to the left and rear of the Tavern. All of the buildings are roofed with wood shingles.
There is wayside panel affixed to the fence left of the gate.
Clover Hill Tavern Wayside Panel
A black banner across the the top of the panel identifies the Clover Hill Tavern. A historic black and white photo is below. In the upper left of the photo is the following text: The tavern as it appeared in 1865. The wing to the left housed the dining room, the structure to the right, the bar. Both no longer stand.
The black and white photo below the text shows the 2 and one-half story tavern shaded by large hardwoods in front. A white picket extends across the front yard. A wide veranda with white posts extends across the front of the building. There is a large crowd of people standing on both sides of the fence. The person at the far left is identified as George Peers with his son and two young daughters. The stable, no longer standing is visible to the right.
Below the photograph is the following text: Built in 1819, this was the first building in what would become the village of Appomattox Court House. The Clover Hill Tavern served travelers along the Richmond-Lynchburg Stage Road. For several decades, it offered the village's only restaurant, only overnight lodging and only bar. Its presence helped prompt the Virginia legislature to locate the Appomattox County Seat here. In 1846 the courthouse was built across the street.By 1865, the tavern had come on hard times - a "bare and cheerless place," according to one Union general. It was one of only two buildings in town used by the Federal army during the surrender process. Here, on the evening of April 10, 1865, Union soldiers set up printing presses and started producing paroles for the surrendered Confederates. The Federals printed more than 30,000 documents here.
Appomattox County Jail (Original)
Built 1867 Restored 1964
Brick. Metal roof.
Completed by 1867, this “new” county jail replaced the first jail, which burned in December 1864. The construction was stopped during the war and restarted later. That may account for the variation in brick color and pattern. The jail is open to the public.
Continue east on the stage road past the Isbell House.
The photograph shows a three story brick building with a black metal roof. There is a single in the middle of the ground floor flanked by two windows. There are white framed windows on the upper two floors above the door. The windows to each side are barred. The Isbell house is viible to the left and behind the jail.
Maria Wright House
Kelley Robinson House
Kelley House (Original)
Built 1855 Restored 1963
Frame. 1 story.
From the porch of this house the residents may have watched Lee’s Confederates lay down their arms on April 12, 1865.
The 18 foot square house was occupied by the Kelley family at the time of Lee's surrender. The house was subsequently leased by John Robinson. Mr. Robinson, his wife and two children had been enslaved but were now freed. He moved his family into the small cabin and began a business as a cobbler in the basement, repairing shoes, saddles, harnesses and any other leather goods. Within five years he was able to purchase the house and the two acre lot on which it sat. He and his family had made the progression from being somebody else's property to property owners.
The house is open to the public.
Continue east to the old Prince Edward Courthouse Road and turn left to the Peers House.
Description: The photograph shows a small frame building with unpainted wood siding and wood shingle roof. A gravel road runs across the front of the photo. A gravel walkway leads through an unpainted picket fence to steps leading to the house porch. A stone and brick chimney stands on the right side of the house. The center door opens to the small porch with a gable roof. The single window to the right of the door shows a curtain.
There are two wayside panels affixed to the fence.
Kelley Wayside Panel
There are two panels affixed to the fence in front of the house. The Kelley panel is on the left. The panel is is tan and yellow with a look of parchment. There are several photographs on the right side of the panel. The following text is to the left:
This circa 1855 house was built by Lorenzo Dow "Whig" Kelley, a local carpenter and one of a family of wheelwrights and carriage builders. His widowed mother, Elizabeth "Widow" Kelley and his grandmother Pricilla (Baugh) Staples also lived here. The family patriarch, Neil Charles Kelley, died in December 1855 shortly after completion of the house. Lorenzo also purchased the one quarter acre triangle formed by the intersection of the Richmond-Lynchburg Stage Road and the Prince Edward Courthouse Road in front of the house in that same year.
The historic black and white photograph to the left is identified as that of Neil Charles Kelley. He is seated with crossed legs in an ornate armchair looking straight into the camera. His upturned collar has a crossed cravat. He is wearing a dark jacket or suit coat over a dark vest. What appears to be a watch fob hangs from his vest. His dark hair and mustache are neatly trimmed.
The text continues: Lorenzo's younger brothers Leonard and Charles mustered into service in the summer of 1861 but Leonard died of typhoid fever in May 1862. Perhaps motivated by their brother's death, that same month, Lorenzo and his younger brother Lawson, joined Company A of the 44th Virginia Infantry which became Company A of the 20th Virginia Heavy Artillery.
Their brother Lawrence was the last to enlist but deserted after four months.
Lorenzo died eight months after enlisting while home on a medical furlough on December 18, 1862. His brother Lawson survived the war and was present for the surrender.
Charles received leave from the Confederate hospital in Farmville, VA on April 4, 1865 and may have made it home to his mother and two sisters to witness the April 12, 1865 stacking of arms" in front of the house.
The house was let unfinished during the restoration process to show the rural building techniques used in the area.
To the right of the text is a black and white historical photograph and to the right of that a service card. Below that is a parole card and to the right a black and white historical photograph.
The upper photograph shows four people. Standing on the left is a young man dressed in a dark suit with a white shirt and tie. Next to him is seated a woman in a dark dress. She is wearing a white bonnet and has a white lace collar. Her hands are folded in her lap and she is holding a white fan. Next to her is a taller young man in a dark suit wearing a white shirt and tie. His right hand is held to his chest. Seated to the right is a grown man with his let crossed over the right. He wears a dark suit with a white shirt and bow tie. His right hand is raised to his chest below which hangs a watch fob.Right of the photograph is a rectangular service card with "Confederate" printed at the top. Below that are handwritten "K (20th Batt. H. Arty.) VA. Lorenzo D. Kelley. Co. A 20th Batty VA H Arty." [i.e. Company A, 20th Battery, Virginia Heavy Artillery.]
Robinson Wayside Panel
Peers House (Original)
Built 1856 Restored 1954 Frame
Not open to the public
George Peers, clerk of Appomattox County court for 40 years, lived in this frame house, built in the early 1850s. The cannon and caisson displayed represent the Confederate artillery that fired from the Peers' front yard during the final moments of the Battle of Appomattox Court House on April 9, 1865. That was the last artillery shot fired by the Army of Northern Virginia.
Turn left and continue on the Stage Road to the sites of Chamberlain's Salute and the site where Grant and Lee met on April 10, 1865.
The photograph shows a 2 1/2 story frame house with red brick chimneys on either end. The house is painted blue-gray and the exposed foundation painted white. Steps lead up to the main floor and gable roofed front porch. In the foreground a caisson represents that Confederate artillery fired from the Peers' front yard.
The end of the walking tour
Your walking tour of the Village is completed. You can return west on the Stage Road to the Village. If you continue east downhill on the Stage Road you will come to the Appomattox River and trailheads that explore the east end of the Park. However, the footbridge over the river is currently out and there is no access to the trail heads from the west bank of the river.