On April 12, 1865, Union Brig. Gen. Joshua Chamberlain watched the distant ridge as the Confederates prepared for the surrender. They formed into column, marched into the valley, then up the Richmond-Lynchburg Stage Road toward the village. As the column approached this knoll, Chamberlain ordered his men to honor them. The Federals snapped to "carry arms" - the "marching salute."
A surprised Maj. Gen. John B. Gordon instantly ordered his men to return the salute. Until now, the drama at Appomattox had been played out by major figures. But here was a profound expression of respect by the armies' common soldiers. They, more than anyone else, would blaze the path to reconciliation in the years that followed.