From the Saginaw (Mich.) Evening News, 3/28/1890
LINCOLN IN RICHMOND
When the news of the Union occupation of Richmond reached Petersburg, Admiral Porter, who now commanded the fleet, took the President on board and steamed up the James river, where he landed on the 4th. Mr. Lincoln went on shore alone, and was walking the streets, inquiring his way of passers by, when some of Gen. Weitzel’s aids met him and conducted him to headquarters in Davis’ deserted mansion. Here he inspected the quarters of the fugitive Confederate chieftain and for a time sat in Davis’ office room in his own accustomed chair.
While he was in Richmond, Mr. Lincoln said to Gen. Weitzel that he believed that the conquered people would be “let up easy.” This was in accordance with his views expressed to Grant and Sherman in Hampton Roads in February, at the time he received the peace commissioners from Richmond. Gen. Grant states in his memoirs that at that time Mr. Lincoln said that if the southerners would agree to perpetual union and the abolition of slavery he would be willing to hand them a blank sheet of paper with his signature attached and let them state the terms themselves. These views, well known to the generals in the field, influenced them in their stipulations for the surrender of Confederate troops and positions.
While President Lincoln was in Richmond Jefferson Davis was attempting to reorganize his capital at Danville, where some troops had been ordered to report. Admiral Raphael Semmes was made a brigadier general and placed in command of the defenses, and his naval brigade built and mounted intrenchments. On April 5 Davis announced by proclamation that Virginia was to be abandoned by the Confederate armies. Lee was now concentrating his men in the vicinity of Amelia Court House, on the Richmond and Danville railroad, about twenty-five miles west of Petersburg. This point was south of the Appomattox and Lee had to recross that river. This movement placed him on the same side with the Union army. The troops from Richmond and from the works along the James, between Petersburg and Richmond, all joined Lee at Amelia Court House. On the 5tth he sent forward his artillery on roads to the right of those upon which the troops marched, and he also formed a column to attack Sheridan’s advance, now at Jetersville. Sheridan had sent out Custer’s and Merritt’s divisions on the morning of the 3d to strike Amelia Court House and head off the retreating Confederates.
At the crossing of Deep Creek, Gen. W. H. F. Lee’s command effectively checked the pursuit, and Sheridan’s cavalry waited all night for the Fifth, Second and Sixth corps to come up. On the 4th, McKenzie’s division of cavalry pushed on to within a few miles of Amelia Court House, and, finding the enemy in force, halted and waited for infantry supports to come up. The Fifth corps reached the ground the same night. On the morning of the 5th, Sheridan sent Davies’ brigade of Crook’s division around the Confederate flank to ascertain whether Lee was marching to the north of not. At Painesville, five miles north of Amelia, Davies attacked a wagon train, burned it and returned, followed by Munford’s and Rosser’s cavalry, and driven back upon his supports.
On the morning of the 6th Lee again took up the march, moving along the Danville railroad toward Burkeville. All the bridges behind him had been destroyed, and the pursuit was on parallel roads rather than in his rear. The Second, Fifth and Sixth corps, having been directed on Amelia Court House, were now stretched across the Danville railroad near Jetersville, facing north and northeast. Ord’s Army of the James, moving out on the South Side railroad, was at Burkeville, and Parke’s Ninth corps, the last to leave Petersburg, was moving on the same route, and on the morning of the 6th was within a day’s march Ord’s column. Nothing short of a most fortunate and speedy march could save Lee.
GEORGE L. KILMER.