On 24 April 1865, 15 days after the event actually occurred, the London Times announced General Lee’s surrender of the Army of Northern Virginia to General Grant. The Times reported, “The great war on which the eyes of the world have been fixed for the last four years has been virtually brought to a close by the surrender of General Lee with the chief army of the Southern States.”
The newspaper dutifully praised the North’s army, remarking on its “steady discipline” and “superior resources,” which made “the Northern levies excellent machines after the model of the European armies.” The paper also commented on how the North had “a patience, a fortitude, and an energy which entitle[d] them to rank among the very first of military nations.”
But the Times’ true admiration was reserved for the Confederate army:
Chief and soldiers have now failed for the first and last time. They were victorious until victory was no longer to be achieved by human valour, and then they fell with honour. Theirs has been no gradual decay in courage and discipline, no demoralization the result of successive defeats. [. . .] When the true history of these things is told it will probably be found that the campaign of 1865, fought by enfeebled and ill-found bands against all the power of the North, has shown a heroism unequalled in former and more successful campaigns.
The Times article’s overall opinion of the defeat seemed to be that the Northern and Southern armies were equal in quality, but it was the North’s larger numbers that allowed them to win. It observed that the South “had genius and courage, but these have failed when opposed to almost equal genius and courage backed by superior numbers.”
Despite the Times’ great respect for the Confederate army, the article ended with the hope that America could return to peace—that Lincoln could “by gentle measures restore tranquility” and “calm in some degree the animosities which have been raised by these years of war.”