1865 Confederate General Lee surrenders Confederate General Robert E. Lee surrenders his army to Union General Ulysses S. Grant at Appomattox Court House, Virginia. For more than a week, Lee had tried to outrun Grant to the west of Richmond and Petersburg in Virginia. After a ten-month siege of the two cities, the Union forces broke through the defenses and forced Lee to retreat. The Confederates moved along the Appomattox River, with Union General Phillip Sheridan shadowing them to the south. Lee’s army had little food, and they began to desert in large numbers on the retreat. When Lee arrived at Appomattox, he found that his path was blocked. He had no choice but to request a meeting with Grant. They met at a house in Appomattox at 2:00 p.m. on the afternoon of April 9. Lee was resplendent in his dress uniform and a fine sword at his side. Grant arrived wearing a simple soldier’s coat that was muddy from his long ride. The great generals spoke of their service in the Mexican War, and then set about the business at hand. Grant offered generous terms. Officers could keep their side arms, and all men would be immediately released to return home. Any officers and enlisted men who owned horses could take them home, Grant said, to help put crops in the field and carry their families through the next winter. These terms, said Lee, would have “the best possible effect upon the men,” and “will do much toward conciliating our people.” The papers were signed and Lee prepared to return to his men. In one of the great ironies of the war, the surrender took place in the parlor of Wilmer McClean’s home. McClean had once lived along the banks of Bull Run, Virginia, the site of the first major battle of the war in July 1861. Seeking refuge from the fighting, McClean decided to move out of the Washington-Richmond corridor to try to avoid the fighting that would surely take place there. He moved to Appomattox Court House only to see the war end in his home. Although there were still Confederate armies in the field, the war was officially over. Four years of bloodshed had left a devastating mark on the country: 360,000 Union and 260,000 Confederate soldiers had perished during the Civil War. 1947 Tornado reduces Oklahoma town to rubble The town of Woodward, Oklahoma, is nearly wiped off the map by a powerful tornado on this day in 1947. More than 100 people died in Woodward, and 80 more lost their lives elsewhere in the series of twisters that hit the U.S. heartland that day. The storm occurred when a cold front from Siberia met a warm and moist stream of air from the Gulf of Mexico. In the late afternoon, the first tornado struck in White Deer, Texas. In Glazier, Texas, only a gas station survived the twister. In Higgins, Texas, 30 people were killed as the tornado grew to nearly a mile-and-a-half wide. As the tornado traveled on in its nearly 100-mile-long trip, it got even wider. By the time it reached Woodward it was reportedly as big as two miles wide. Fierce lightning and hail preceded the twister and drove the residents to seek shelter. At about nine in the evening, the town s gas and electric plants were destroyed and the residents were left in complete darkness. As the storm moved through Woodward, 200 residential blocks were completely leveled and nearly 1,000 homes were razed. Fires broke out in several spots but the heavy rains kept them under control. In all, 107 people were killed in Woodward and many more were injured. The devastating tornado then continued on to Kansas, where significant damage was done but no one was killed. As looting was reported in the areas hit by the tornado, the National Guard was called in to restore order. Army barracks were used to house the homeless until their homes could be rebuilt. 1859 Mark Twain receives steamboat pilot’s license On this day in 1859, a 23-year-old Missouri youth named Samuel Langhorne Clemens receives his steamboat pilot’s license. Clemens had signed on as a pilot’s apprentice in 1857 while on his way to Mississippi. He had been commissioned to write a series of comic travel letters for the Keokuk Daily Post, but after writing five, decided he’d rather be a pilot than a writer. He piloted his own boats for two years, until the Civil War halted steamboat traffic. During his time as a pilot, he picked up the term “Mark Twain,” a boatman’s call noting that the river was only two fathoms deep, the minimum depth for safe navigation. When Clemens returned to writing in 1861, working for the Virginia City Territorial Enterprise, he wrote a humorous travel letter signed by “Mark Twain” and continued to use the pseudonym for nearly 50 years. Clemens was born in Hannibal, Missouri, and was apprenticed to a printer at age 13. He later worked for his older brother, who established the Hannibal Journal. In 1864, he moved to San Francisco to work as a reporter. There he wrote the story that made him famous, "The Celebrated Jumping Frog of Calaveras County." In 1866, he traveled to Hawaii as a correspondent for the Sacramento Union. Next, he traveled the world writing accounts for papers in California and New York, which he later published as the popular book The Innocents Abroad(1869). In 1870, Clemens married the daughter of a wealthy New York coal merchant and settled in Hartford, Connecticut, where he continued to write travel accounts and lecture. In 1875, his novel Tom Sawyer was published, followed by Life on the Mississippi (1883) and his masterpiece Huckleberry Finn (1885). Bad investments left Clemens bankrupt after the publication of Huckleberry Finn, but he won back his financial standing with his next three books. In 1903, he and his family moved to Italy, where his wife died. Her death left him sad and bitter, and his work, while still humorous, grew distinctly darker. He died in 1910.