General Joshua Chamberlain was present during the surrender of the Confederate armies at Appomattox. He was given a charge by General Grant command the ceremony of the laying down of arms and flags. Chamberlain recalled,
“We came out in the morning,… forming a regular line of battle to receive the arms and colors of the surrendering army. We see them not a mile away, breaking their camp and folding their little tents. I bethought myself it would not be improper to pay them some respect,… I sent down an order to come up successively to the ‘Carry arms!’… General Gordon was leading the whole rebel army with his Stonewall Corps. I saw him coming with his chin on his breast. He heard the rattle of our men coming to the carry and looked up and understood its meaning, straightened up, wheeled his horse facing me, and gently touching the spur, made the horse rear high in air so that his horse and himself made a bow of salutation, bringing his sword to his boot toe, then gave the command for the men to give the salutation as they best may. They come by successive divisions to rest, halting about twelve feet off, fix bayonets, stack arms; lastly, reluctantly, with an agony of expression on the face, they furl their battle-stained, blood-stained flags and lay them down, some of the men rushing frantically from the ranks, kneeling over those flags, pressing them to their breasts with burning tears and burning kisses, and then the Star-Spangled Banner waved alone upon the field…we were the appointed instruments to a divine decree… Our joy was deep, far drawn, unspoken satisfaction. We seemed to be in the presence of some mighty angel appointed for human destinies, perhaps with the power of correcting errors and even of forgiving sins,…which is the sake of God.”
The ways of God are often a mystery. At Appomattox, Chamberlain realized he was an instrument of God. Sometimes we do not recognize God’s presence during battles. Old Testament believer Joseph realized that God used his trials to help others.