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Carolina Story: Virtual Museum of University History

William A. Graham (1804-1875)

On April 9, 1865, Confederate General Robert E. Lee surrendered to Union General Ulysses S. Grant at Appomattox Court House, Virginia. When the news reached North Carolina several days later, university leaders David L. Swain and William A. Graham realized Confederate defeat was at hand. As he fled arrest, Governor Zebulon B. Vance authorized Swain and Graham to ask General Sherman for a "suspension of hostilities" to protect Raleigh from the fate of Columbia. Under a white flag, they won Sherman's agreement to spare the capital. One Confederate supporter branded Swain and Graham as "cowardly traitors [who] ought to be hanged."