At Appomattox, at the end of the American Civil War, the surrender of the Southern armies was unconditional.
The parlor of the (reconstructed) McLean House, Appomattox Court House, Virginia, site of the surrender of Gen. Robert E. Lee at the end of the American Civil War, photographed by Hal Jespersen
There was no question of any terms. Yet General Lee made two requests: that his officers be allowed to keep their swords; and that the farmers be allowed to keep their horses.
Grant in his memoirs doesn´t say if he was expecting these requests. But he immediately understood their purpose and granted them. They weren´t concessions; they weren´t even favors. They were measures of sound common sense and leadership. The swords the officers would keep were their dignity. And the horses would be needed to get the men back to work, to re-build the ruined farms and countryside.
It was then spring. There was still time to plow the fields and get a crop growing. This was urgent. Without that year´s cereals there would be certain starvation in the South by winter.
When the Spanish Civil War ended (1939) there were no Republican generals around to surrender the armies and to make requests. They had all fled to France and Portugal. Honor and dignity were still around as a crutch to help men through the horrors of twentieth-century war, and to lean on while facing the firing squad when the war was over. But they were a luxury from another age, not this one.
There was no dramatic surrender scene but the problems facing the country were the same. Tens of thousands of men had nothing to do and no food for themselves and their families. Spain had never had much industry. She couldn´t simply switch on the heavy machinery and start producing again. There was no machinery. She was an agricultural country with her fields in ruins. Grain shipped in from Argentina saved thousands from starvation. That was all the help there was. From the United States there was nothing and there would be nothing for twenty years. The Marshall Plan bypassed Spain.
Franco decided on a surprising government project to employ thousands of men: a mausoleum. It was to stand as a monument to his victory and as a tomb for himself and the soldiers of both sides who died in the war.
The country had no cash and its natural resources were used up. Traditional projects such as dams and roads were out of the question because even cement was scarce. A tomb, a kind of tunnel in a mountain, was probably the cheapest of Franco´s options. There were few overhead costs. No steel was required, no heavy machinery—not even cement. All the stone that was needed would be quarried in the mountains and hauled to the site of the great mausoleum. They would be cut to size and lifted like the stones of the pyramids. Most of the work would consist in chipping away a chamber under the mountain—a kind of negative sculpture.
And so thousands of men hammered away at the mountain and at the roads to the mountain—maybe more stone workmen than had been assembled since ancient times. They were full of ill-will. The huge camps they lived in had the air of prison camps because of the post-war repression. Most of the men had been on the losing side and were stained with guilt. Trials and executions were going on at the time and there were rumors of murders and score-settling. And the firm establishment of Franco´s reign made their future look very bleak.
The Valle de los Caídos, in the mountains near Madrid. The building complex is a Benedictine monastery