150th Anniversary of Civil War End to be Commemorated with Ringing Bells

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Yorktown National Cemetery (Courtesy of the Department of Veterans Affairs,  National Cemetery Administration, History Program)
Yorktown National Cemetery (Courtesy of the Department of Veterans Affairs,
National Cemetery Administration, History Program)

On April 9, 1865, Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee met with Union Gen. Ulysses S. Grant in the village of Appomattox Court House and signed surrender documents.

One hundred fifty years later, citizens will commemorate the end of four years of war by ringing bells across the country.

The National Park Service is encouraging churches, schools and other buildings in the U.S. to ring their bells at 3:15 p.m., which signifies when the meeting between the two generals concluded and marked the symbolic end of the Civil War.

“While Lee’s surrender did not end the Civil War, the act is seen by most Americans as the symbolic end of four years of bloodshed,” said Mike Byrd, spokesman for the Colonial National Historical Park, in a news release.

In the village of Appomattox Court House, where the historical meeting occurred, bells will ring for four minutes, signifying four years of war.

Locally, citizens can commemorate the end of the war Thursday at Yorktown National Cemetery — where many Union Army soldiers are buried — located at the intersection of Cook and Goosley Roads, and at Grace Episcopal Church, located at 111 Church St.

The commemoration ceremonies at both locations will began at 3 p.m. with brief overviews of York County’s war involvement between 1862 and 1865 by the York County Civil War Sesquicentennial Committee and the Colonial National Historical Park.

The ringing of the bells will begin at 3:15 p.m. and last for four minutes.

Yorktown Baptist Church and the Wren building at the College of William & Mary will also recognize the event by ringing their bells at 3:15 p.m.

Leading up to the meeting between Grant and Lee, Union troops took the city of Richmond, causing Lee to retreat to the west before Grant and his Union forces caught up to him, cutting off the retreat at Appomattox Court House and surrounding Lee’s army.

Lee ordered his troops to retreat through the village and across the Appomattox River, eventually surrendering the Army of Northern Virginia before meeting with Grant.

The terms of the surrender called for Confederate troops to be paroled and allowed to return to their homes, while Union soldiers had to refrain from celebration or taunting.

The National Park Service is encouraging those ccommemorating the anniversary to share their commemorative events and experiences on social media April 9 by using the hashtag #BellsAcrosstheLand2015.