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Confederate Parole Pass, 1865


Materials in the Library of Virginia’s collections contain historical terms, phrases, and images that are offensive to modern readers. These include demeaning and dehumanizing references to race, ethnicity, and nationality; enslaved or free status; physical and mental ability; and gender and sexual orientation. 


On April 9, 1865, Confederate General Robert E. Lee surrendered the Army of Northern Virginia to General Ulysses S. Grant at Appomattox Court House. The surrender effectively ended the American Civil War in Virginia, although fighting continued in other parts of the Confederacy for several months. On April 10, 1865, Grant and Lee met again. At this meeting Grant agreed that Lee’s troops would receive parole passes or slips proving that they were paroled prisoners and were allowed to travel home. Grant also agreed to provide rations for the Confederate troops and to allow soldiers who had provided their own horses to keep them. Paroled soldiers returning home through United States controlled territory were allowed free travel on U.S. government railroads and ships. Some of the parole slips for high ranking Confederate officers were signed by U. S. Army officers, but slips for most Confederate soldiers, like this one, were signed by their commanding officers.

A portable printing press was set up at Appomattox and almost 30,000 parole passes were printed. This parole pass was given to Confederate Captain James M. Garnett (1840–1916). Dated April 10, 1865, it was signed at Appomattox Court House by Confederate Major General Bryan Grimes and countersigned by the U.S. Army's assistant provost marshal Brigadier General George H. Sharpe. James Garnett grew up in Loudoun County, attended the University of Virginia, served as an artillery captain with the Army of Northern Virginia during the Civil War, and later served as president of St. John's College, in Annapolis, Maryland.

Citation: Parole for James M. Garnett, April 10, 1865, James Mercer Garnett Papers, 1861–1865, Accession 20947, Library of Virginia, Richmond, Virginia.



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Up for Debate: Take a position on the issue of paroling Confederate officers after the surrender. What arguments would you make to support your position?

Analyze: The surrender at Appomattox Court House served as a model for other agreements concerning the status of former Confederate soldiers. Why do you think part of the surrender agreement included offering parole for those who fought for the Army of Northern Virginia?