Bells in public spaces across the nation rang at 2:15 p.m. Thursday to celebrate the 150th anniversary of the symbolic end to the Civil War, when Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee surrendered to Union Lt. Gen. Ulysses S. Grant.
It was an unfortunate day for the bells at Our Lady of Lourdes Catholic Church in Minneapolis to falter. Onlookers stood faithfully waiting for the bells to chime until about 2:25 p.m., when it was determined the day would be celebrated in silence.
William Crowder, dressed in a traditional bugler uniform, played taps in front of the church as the small crowd disbanded.
Gov. Mark Dayton asked Minnesotans to commemorate the day with four minutes of bell ringing — one minute for every year the Civil War lasted.
“Minnesota’s Civil War veterans fought courageously, and made great sacrifices to preserve our Union,” Dayton said in a news release.
Lee surrendered after Union troops cornered the Confederates in the Appomattox Court House. Lee had tried to break through a Union force that he assumed consisted only of cavalry, but once Lee realized the cavalry was backed by infantry, he was forced to surrender.
The news of Lee’s surrender reached Minnesota on April 13, 1865. “Rejoice!” the St. Cloud Democrat’s front page read, “the day of jubilee has come!”
Correspondence between Lee and Grant leading up to Lee’s surrender was printed on the Democrat’s front page, including a letter from Grant on April 8 urging Lee to comply with the terms of the surrender.
“The terms upon which peace can be had are well understood by the South,” a note printed in the paper read. “The laying down arms by your army will hasten that most desirable event, save thousands of human lives and hundreds of millions of property not yet destroyed.”
Among the news announcement were several advertisements, including one for Morton’s Gold Pens, which was accompanied by a slogan, “the pen is mightier than the sword,” and an ad for an eating house that offered oysters and pigs feet.
On Thursday, new Civil War stamps were unveiled at a ceremony at Our Lady of Lourdes before the unsuccessful bell ringing. Speakers from the Minnesota Civil War Commemoration Task Force, the Mississippi National River and Recreation Area and other groups helped celebrate the anniversary.
“[Today] will not only commemorate an event in our past, it will remind us that the fight for civil rights is still playing out across America,” said recreation area Superintendent John Anfinson.
And as for the poor performance of the 132-year-old bell, there’s always the 151st anniversary.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
Anne Millerbernd is a University of Minnesota student on assignment for the Star Tribune.