From the Boston Daily Advertiser, 4/10/1865, p. 1, c. 7
THE EFFECTS OF THE FIRE.
The Sentiments of the Citizens.
The Hotels – The Newspapers – Rebel Belles – Capitol Square – The Provost-Marshal’s Office – President Lincoln – The Libby Prison.
[FROM OUR SPECIAL CORRESPONDENT.]
RICHMOND, Va., April 5, 1865.
“How long will it take me to go to Richmond?” asked an eager officer at City Point of a veteran brigadier holding command there, soon after we got the good news.
“I can’t say how long it will take you,” was the answer, “it has taken me three years and eleven months.”
It took you correspondent about a day. It was not so simple a matter to go from City Point to Richmond immediately after the rebel capital fell into Union hands as your readers may imagine, or as your correspondent thought when he received, wandering through Petersburg, the news of the occupation of Richmond, and hurried back to the base of operations to go thence to the more important point. The distance, which by map and scale is twenty miles, is nearly doubled by the twists and bends of the river. Bridges all burned, the stream filled with obstructions and torpedoes, no transportation to be found, the accomplishment of the journey to Richmond was no simple problem. At first, officials having this matter in charge thought the eligible route was to be found in the railroad via Petersburg, but this idea was soon abandoned. At last, however, the many obstacles were overcome or circumvented by a variety of means not necessary to recount, and your correspondent found himself entering Richmond at the Rockets, a few hours after the advent of the President of the United States.
The story at City Point, told by those who professed to have gone into the city with the advance on Monday morning, was, that only a small portion of Richmond was burned by the retreating rebels. The same statement has been telegraphed North. I soon found its falsity. Soon after reaching Main street the traveller enters the burned district, extending on the right to the James River, and on the left to the streets on the ridge of the hill. The area burned over extends up Main to Fifteenth street, including almost the whole business portion of the town, in both wholesale and retail departments of trade, and a very large number of private dwellings, mostly of the poorer class of the population. In the district where the flames obtained sway they took every thing, leaving no occasional buildings which from any cause were saved. With a single exception, every thing within the broad boundaries of the burned district is a mass of ruins, still hot and smoldering. In other parts of the city single burned buildings are quite frequent, the fragments of shells exploding in the arsenals having carried conflagration with them to distant localities.
The extent of the destruction of this fearful fire will perhaps be better appreciated if I say that it is as if incendiaries had burned State Street Block and all the immense warehouses on Commercial, Broad, India and Federal streets, and a brisk ocean breeze had carried the flames irresistibly into the heart of the city. The Custom House here is situated much as in Boston, and similarly is of granite and fire-proof. It is the only solitary building yet standing in the burned district, having passed through the terrible ordeal of Monday almost unscathed. Fancy, if you can, Devonshire street, and all between Broad and Washington streets, both sides of Washington street from State to Summer, many buildings on Tremont street, all of Fort Hill and half the North End, one grand waste of ashes; burn all the banks and insurance offices, all but two of the newspaper offices; and then, remembering that Richmond at best is only one-third the size of Boston, fancy what is left. If your imagination is a good one, you have from this a tolerable idea of the results of the great fire.
It was nearly midnight last night when I arrived in Richmond. At first I met numerous negroes and strolling squads of soldiers, black and white, more jolly than victory alone could make them. Occasionally a sentry paced the pavement in front of some property that the provost authorities had thought worth guarding. But as I entered the burned district, no more, even of these, were encountered. All was solitude. The moon gave a picturesque and the sullen lames a weird and supernatural light to the scene. As far as the eye could reach in every direction were only ruins, irregular piles of brick, thin fragments of walls yet standing, sometimes a single chimney of pillar alone remaining upright of a large block, - and even as I looked, perhaps one of these would topple over into the street, already piled thickly with fallen bricks. Here and there the tall granite front of some warehouses still stood firm, all the rest of the building destroyed, and the moon shining with beautiful effect through the sashless windows of the ruin. The passer’s feet constantly tripped in the fallen telegraph wire, or the hose which the swift spread of the flame had compelled the firemen to abandon; sometimes his face or throat felt the effects of a sudden gust of smoke or puff of flame from the embers among which he picked his way. It was decidedly not a comfortable journey; yet it was as decidedly a pleasant one, - and perhaps, the very manner which one would select for his entrance into a capital where treason has made its throne and striven its best to destroy the national life.
Almost the first building which one finds standing entire and uninjured, after traversing the modern Gomorrah, is the Spottswood Hotel. This house only very narrowly escaped destruction, being close by an arsenal, the shells from which kindled many buildings, even beyond the hotel. A lull in the breeze at a lucky moment save the Spottswood, and I found it last night with doors open, receiving and welcoming as heartily guests in blue and gold as for four years past customers in rebel motley.
Rather a sudden fall in prices was that in the tariff of the Spotswood, - from a hundred and fifty dollars a day on Sunday to four dollars a day on Monday. The house weathered the storm bravely, and is now enjoying richly the comforts of a calm, - afor already every room is taken and the tables are crowded. A serious disadvantage is the want of gas, which was shut off on Monday, on account of the fire, from the lower part of the city. Candles are four dollars each, and very scarce at that, and the clerk cuts off for each guest his inch of tallow very gingerly. Neither siege nor capture has taken from the hotel the quiet elegance which characterized it before the war. The furniture is still good, after four years of hard usage without a chance to replenish the stock from Northern workshops. The rooms are pleasant, as of old, the beds excellent and plentifully supplied with superb blankets of ancient wool. The attendance is prompt and efficient. The victuals are of course not what they would be in a Northern hotel, - for Richmond is narly at starvation point, cut off long ago from Union supplies, and now from rebel supplies also. Still the most is made, by skillful cookery, of the materials at hand, and the visitor who has been faring for some weeks upon military active campaign rations finds his dinner at the Spotswood almost a feast. The same proprietor, clerks and employés manage the affairs of the house as under rebel rule. Already there is a greedy host of applicants presenting their claims to have this or that hotel assigned them by military edict, but I doubt whether their avarice will be gratified.
A walk through the portion of Richmond which survives the fire shows very many features of interest. One is doubly convinced of the fact that the rebellion is no more, and that no dreams of even its ghost need disturb the slumber of any Union man again. Here in its capital and chief city, in less than forty-eight hours of loyal occupation, every essential trace of the rebellion is vanished as if by magic. Perhaps the most tangible vestige of the late confederacy is in the swarms of leaves of whitish brown paper, blown in one’s face by every wind, whirling in little circles in the breeze at every corner, carpeting every gutter, far and near. These are the scattered archives of the Southern confederacy, upset perhaps in the haste of packing by some rebel official, distributed over the city by Union soldiers, searching through armfuls of the stuff for valuable autographs or curious documents. One must examine the mass long now before finding aught worth saving. Invoices, ordnance returns, receipts, requisitions, pay rolls, transportation orders, dry and formal matters all, - after a few glances one puts his foot on the rustling heaps in contempt, and passes on.
The citizens, although the story of their enthusiasm in greeting our men is doubtless fabulous, seem to have accepted the condition of things with the sensible determination to make the best of it. We surely cannot expect of a man who for four years has lived in the shadow of Jefferson Davis and read nothing but the issues of the Richmond press, that he should cheer for Union, Lincoln and emancipation at a day’s notice. If he has done so, he is probably insincere and not to be trusted with any thing. If he submits to the fortune which Providence and war have brought him cheerfully and with common sense, aiming to respect and obey the powers that be, it is all we can expect, and may in time be made the foundation of something much better. The citizens of Richmond, although they have suffered ten times the loss of their neighbors of Petersburg, wear easily and not ungraciously the yoke under thich the people of the Cockade City chafe most bitterly. The women make calls upon each other as usual, chat about the exciting scenes of Monday, and devise measures for the relief of those left without shelter of food. The men do not go about their business for few of them have any place of business left. They sit quietly in their houses, or converse in groups about the doors, or go to look at the Yankee uniforms and listen to the Yankee bands. They talk freely with the soldiers, speak frankly of the parties in the war as “union” and “rebel,” and in short conduct themselves pprecisely as if their city had been in our hands a year instead of a day.
The people of Richmond dress much better than do the inhabitants of Petersburg. This has apparently been the show city of the rebellion, which had gathered the richest fruits of blockade-running and profited by them to the utmost. The ladies have no hoops nor bonnets, and dress chiefly in black, but not shabbily. Many wear mantillas and capes of silk and satin of the style of 1860, evidently carefully guarded and repaired since them, and kept as the very best garment for state-occasions only. The men are generally arrayed in Southern gray fabrics, although some venerable prominent citizens are respendent in broadcloth suits, the glass and the fashion of which ??? show them to be quite fresh from the hands of a European or Northern tailor.
The only stores open are those of the apothecaries. I visited one, the shelves of which were well filled with most of the articles of a druggist’s assortment. The proprietor informed me that before the fall of Wilmington he had managed to keep his stock uniformly full. Since that event his only reliance was the smiggling carried on across the lower Potomac, the traffic by that means, he said, being immense. Some particular articles, as for instance sponges, are not to be obtained in Richmond at any price.
Richmond is a beautiful city. I think there is none in the South and very few in the whole Union where the dwellings of the richest class are built with more elegance, richness and good taste. Of course, nothing in the way of construction has been done during the war; but all the upper part of the city has been carefully kept in repair, and some of the palatial residences of the aristocratic Virignians are as regal in their appearance, surroundings, appointments and furniture as any in Fifth avenue or Mount Vernon street. They are not set together too closely for comfort, and in their lawns and yards are many fine specimens of ornamental gardening. The long summer with which the city is blessed has fairly begun, and while it is yet raw and chilly in Boston, and damp and muddy in New York, the citizens and the captors of Richmond are dwelling in a wealth of blossom and verdure, and enjoying the most delightful weather which it ever entered into the heart of man to conceive of.
Of course the centre of interest for both military and civil visitors is at Capitol square. Here is that grand monument to the greatest Virginian in history, in itself worth a pilgrimage to see. The spirited bronze equestrian statue of Washington by Crawford is the pride of Richmond as a work of art, and today both horse and rider seem to be inspired with the consciousness that from their lofty eminence they look on a Virginia at last redeemed, purified of the presence of armed traitors, washed in an ocean of patriot blood clean of the sins which have stained her escutcheon, and ready once more to take her place as an equal in the nation which this her greatest son founded and so dearly loved. On the lesser pedestals of the monument Patrick Henry and Thomas Jefferson seem using all the arts of fervid eloquence and brilliant philosophy to persuade their recreant descendants to return once more to the doctrines they taught so well, of the sacredness of human rights and the grandeur of a united nationality.
From the summit of the Capitol, used as such by both State and rebel governments, wave today the stars and stripes. The steps are thronged with people, soldiers black and white, officers of every grade, citizens of every class, crowding on all sorts of business to the office here established of the provost-marshal. On the lower floor of the building is the room used by the rebel House of Representatives. Soldiers are sitting in the speaker’s chair, poking their bayonets into the members’ desks, searching everywhere for relics worth carrying North when their service is ended by the arrival of peace. A small adjoining chamber, occupied by the Hosue committee on military affairs, is almost knee-deep with papers. Autographs of Jefferson Davis and his ministers may be picked up by the score. Here are the official reports of rebel generals of the campaigns, Eastern and Western, of 1862, in a systematically arranged manuscript, ready for the printer. Here is the journal of the secret sessions of the rebel Congress, during the period when the bill arming the slaves was under debate. It is the third day of Union occupation, but no measures have been taken to guard or preserve these documents, and next week they will be scattered far and wide over the North, beyond the possibility of being gathered again together for use or examination.
In the rotunda of the Capitol is a statue of Washington in marble, seemingly very faithful to the subject, with a quaint inscription on the pedestal showing among other things that the statue was erected in 1788, during the life of the father of his country and before the adoption of the Federal Constitution. In the chamber occupied by the House of Delegates of Virginia are one or two large portraits of State heroes. I am told that a picture of General Lee hung here last week, and that the rebels took it with them in their retreat. It is certainly gone, but it seems more likely that it has found refuge in the private house of some of Lee’s friends in Richmond.
In the second story of the Capitol is the State library of Virginia. The room is a very fine one, and the collection of books exceedingly valuable. They number nearly as many, I should think, as those in the Boston Athenaeum. In the small room opposite, a little while ago the chamber of the Confederate Senate, sits in Mr. R. M. T. Hunter’s chair, the acting provost-marshal of Richmond, Lieutenant-Colonel Fred. L. Manning of the Army of the James. A motley crowd numbered by hundreds throng the door, and are let in a few at a time by a sentinel. The Colonel attends to their cases at the rate of about six a munite.
There are few more interesting places than the provost-marshal’s office of a lately captured city. Let us listen a mement to what these people have to say: -
“There’s a lot of soldiers taking away my fish, - and I don’t want to sell the fish at all, - and they give me this they say is greenbacks” [holding out an advertisement of Plantation Bitters printed in the guise of a bank-note] “Corporal, take a file of men and arrest these plunderers that this man will show you.”
“I am a soldier in the rebel army, sir, and wish to give myself up.” “Sergeant, put this man with the others.”
“I came into the city last Sunday, sir, and haven't been able to get home again.” “Can’t help it sir, - strict orders that no citizen leaves the city today. Tomorrow, perhaps you may go.”
“My husband is very sick, eight miles down the river, sir, and I want to go down tonight.” “Certainly, madam, here is your pass.”
“Does a newspaper correspondent need a pass to go back to City Point?” “Yes, sir, - here it is.”
“A couple of soldiers have taken a lot of jewelry from my shop.” “When was it?” “Tuesday morning.” “Can’t go back so far, sir, - you should have been here yesterday.”
And so on for fifteen hours of the day. But here is a man of a different stamp, - a small well-formed fellow, with a pale skin, full yellow beard and long light hair. He has Union trowsers and a blue blouse on, but does not look like an ordinary soldiers, nor is he. This is Captain S. S. Grosvenor, of Kingston, Canada. Three years ago he engaged in the secret service of the United States government, for which his tastes and talents fitted him. After much exciting and valuable service, in May, 1864, he fell into the hands of the rebels. They put him at first for six months in the penitentiary, - then transferred him to one of the vilest dungeons of Castle Thunder. The prisoners in this place were taken out at about midnight on Sunday, and marched away under guard to the Danville station. By this time the gutters of the city were running with whiskey. A sentinel stopped a moment to scoop up some in his cup, and Grosvenor, seizing the second of opportunity, ran for his life. He succeeded in making his escape, concealed himself during the night, and in the morning no man in Richmond welcomed the Union troops with a heartier greeting. Captain Grosvenor tells strange stories of the Unionism which has been hidden in Richmond, - of aid and comfort given him in his prison by friends without, of elaborate attempts to escape almost accomplished, of files and saws slipped into his hands even by the sentinel appointed to guard him. The garments he wears were given him by Union soldiers, who found him almost destitute. He is going to Washington, and has some valuable information of the government.
Leaving the Capitol, we find a band playing exquisitely in the square in from the of the Governor’s house, which is now the headquarters of General Charles Devens of Massachusetts, who sits on its piazza listening to the music of Union airs, and smiles as he things of the place and its associations. Well has he and well have all these gallant men in blue coats earned the right to take their ease in Richmond. With the first Massachusetts men in April, 1861, the Major hastened to the defence of the national capital; shall not the General rejoice in April, 1865, as he rests in the captured capital of the exploded rebellion, where also he and his command were with the first to set their feet?
We have seen all we shall of the archives of the confederacy, in our visit to the Capitol. All else was burned in Monday morning’s fire, - the post-office, war and navy departments, etc. The mansion of Jefferson Davis, a stately and comfortable-looking edifice, still stands on Marshall street, and is occupied by Major-General Weitzel as his headquarters. There also today is President Lincoln. The visit of the President to Richmond has been one of the most remarkable incidents of the war. Remaining at City Point long after the time orgininally set for his return, he has been most intensely interested in the progress of the grand struggle. All General Grant’s despatches from the front were sent directly on board Mr. Lincoln’s steamer River Queen, and the President was thus enabled to watch every movement of the campaign in detail. When General Grant informed him of the success of Sheridan on Sunday night and the proposed general movement forward the next morning, it is understood that the President himself directed Admiral Porter to give the aid of the navy by shelling vigorously the rebel batteries which could be reached from the Appomattox. When Petersburg fell into our hands, the President visited the town during Monday; but his main anxiety was to enter Richmond. I have already detailed the difficulties of the trip, - but difficulties and dangers were alike thrust aside with vigor, and on Tuesday morning the President went up the river. He went a part of the way in his own steamer, and the rest on Admiral Porter’s flagship Malvern, passing the doubtful spots, from whose depths are still extracted enormous torpedoes, whithout interruption.
The arrival of the President in the city, as described to me here, must have been a curious spectacle. The party landed at the Rockets. There was no expectation of the visit or preparation for it in Richmond. The wharf was deserted, and a carriage was out of the question. So the President had nothing left but to walk into town, a distance of about a mile. The procession was not large, - consisting of Mr. Lincoln, his son Tad, who accompanies him everywhere, and Admiral Porter, one or two other military and naval officers, and an enterprising newspaper correspondent, whom the crowd undoubtedly took to be Vice-President Johnson. Mr. Lincoln was soon recognized, but no assassin’s pistol was raised against him. Everybody seemed curious to see the President. Loud shouts told all what was the sensation of the day, and the crowd of black and white, men and women, soon grew to enormous dimensions. Shouting, yelling, screeching, pushing and rushing to catch a glimpse, the singular procession moved on to the house of Jeff. Davis, which the President entered in triumph. The inhabitants were greatly astonished at the prompt appearance of the President, as they did not know of his presence at City Point, and inferred that he had come from Washignton by some mysteriously swift conveyance, expressly to visit Richmond.
Probably no Yankee will ever include this city in his pleasure tour in the future, without visiting the Libby Prison. That famous structure is today a delightful specimen of poetic justice. The dingy old tobacco warehouse is ???, with its barred windows, looking thoroughly commonplace, as it never could have looked otherwise. But inside the bars are no longer unhappy Union officers, starved and outraged in every way. Blue-coated sentinels pace around the walls, and the windows frame the sallow faces of gray-coated prisoners who last week marched with Lee. There is no attempt at retribution. The prisoners are not crowded, they are fed with smoking coffee and crisp hard-tack, and when a Richmond damsel comes to comfort her imprisoned sweetheart, he comes to the door or window, and the interview is undisturbed. Union gentlemen have been shot for showing their faces at these bars, - but still, the tables are turned, and no Northern man can gaze at the Libby Prison today without a grim smile of satisfaction at the change.
Only one Richmond paper survives the revolution of the week. The Whig, never very cordial in its support of Jefferson Davis and his policy, appeared on Tuesday evening as a Union paper, - the absence of the gas making the issue of a morning paper impossible. The former proprietor continues to manage the office, and one of the sub-editors gives his assistance in making up the paper. If the loyalty of neither of these gentlemen is yet very warm or very vigorous, or any thing more than the unionism of expediency, it is at least a fair specimen of the best Union sentiment to be found in the South, and is capable of being developed into something much better in good times. The two papers thus far published have been confined mainly to the publication of military orders and the narration of local incidents of the week. This evening evening’s issue announces that hopes are entertained of securing the services in the editorial department of “one of the most brilliant and vigorous writers in Virginia,” – alluding, it is surmised on the streets here, to the venerable John Minor Botts. The Whig is printed on a very dingy little half-sheet, has no new advertisements, and copies the war news of Northern papers a week old, mistakes, false reports and all.
The Richmond Theatre has been closed for a few days, but reopens tonight with the manager, Mr. R. D’Orsay Ogden, and company, who have occupied it for several months past. The play is to be “Don Caesar de Basan,” and President Lincoln and a large number of other distinguished personages, including even General Grant, fighting fifty miles away on the Danville road, “have been invited to attend.”
One does not meet many famous people in Richmond, except the party which has come in this week. Mrs. General Lee, who is an invalid, is living quietly in her husband’s house on the hill. Mr. E. A. Pollard, who has some friends in Boston, and is slightly famous as the only rebel who has thought it worth while to attempt a history of the war, swaggers with much pomp and bluster about the halls of the Spottswood. I met Colonel Lincoln of the Massachusetts 34th in the Capitol. He was prevented by serious illness from accompanying his regiment to the left and marched from hospital to Richmond with the advance of General Weitzel’s force.
I have not been able as yet to give a very close examination to the fortifications of Richmond, the inner line of which is about six miles from the centre of the city. It is evident to the most casual observer that they are very strong, very elaborately constructed and very hastily abandoned. The rebels planted their forts very thickly with torpedoes, marking their position with little flags for the guidance and safety of their own men. These useful signals the rebel rear guard were too panic-stricked or too stupid to remove, - so that they still remain, and serve as warning to our men, by the aid of which all danger from explosions is very easily avoided.
The James River, between Varina Landing and Richmond, a distance of about twn miles, is a very interesting and somewhat exciting stream to sail over. At the Rockets lie a half-dozen of Admiral Porter’s gunboats, officers and men eagerly taking their turns of leave of absence to enjoy the sights and pleasures of the shore. Then one comes to the rebel rams and gunboats, lying sunk in the stream, and forming most formidable chains of obstructions, which have been sufficiently removed by our naval force to allow the passage of a steamer. Everywhere are torpedoes. Many, including some most formidable ones, have already been removed. Others still remain, their whereabouts marked to the pilot by buoys placed where our drag-nets have found torpedoes, and bearing little red flags to indicate the danger lurking beneath them. With all these safeguards the voyage seems still a perilous one, for the boat often barely grazes on each side between two of these torpedo-signals, and her keel often grates harshly over some sunken iron-clad, not quite high enough to interrupt her course. The rebels succeeded in destroying all the Richmond steamers except one, the flag-of-truce boat William Allison. This boat was sent down the river on Sunday night with the last load of prisoners for exchange Returning, the captain saw the fires lighting the sky over Richmond, and very prudently paused, spent the night in the stream, and in the morning reported himself and his vessel to the Union authorities. Both have ever since been kept busy in the employ of the national government.
About half way between Richmond and Varina, on the right bank of the stream, is Fort Darling, extending for a front of about two miles, and perhaps the strongest defensive work which either side has erected during the present war. In the revolution there was a little redoubt here bearing the name of Fort Darling, and the skilfuul engineers who constructed the new work here for the rebels in 1861 perpetuated the singular name. Close under the bluff here are now lying the Chippewa and a number of other Union gunboats, and several monitors of one and two turrets each. Parties of officers and seamen in boats are still busy investigating the secrets hidden in the depths of the river, and clearing the channel for the use either of war or commerce.
Perhaps it is not yet too late to give you a concise account of what I have been able to gather from all sources here in regard to the evacuation and capture of the city. I cannot think with many that the abandonment of Richmond and Petersburg was a deliberate act, decided upon as necessary several months ago, and prepared for gradually and carefully by Davis and Lee. I see every evidence of haste in determining upon and in executing the act, and am forced to the conclusion that Lee looked to find in the present campaign the victory which he has so often won before. Knowing the superior force of our armies, he must have relied upon his almost impregnable position, brilliant and audacious strategy and desperate fighting, to shake off Grant’s grip upon Petersburg, and hold out through another summer. The attack upon Steadman on March 25, one of the most splendid achievements of the whole war, would, if its early success had been kept up an hour longer, have completely cut our army in two, and have raised the siege of Petersburg. Close upon the failure, which came so near being a triumph, of this scheme to astonish the world, came Grant’s extension of his line to the left. That Lee hoped to win victory out of the seeming attenuation of our force by this movement, seems p???d by the vigor and persistency with which he defended, during Thursday and Friday and Saturday, every portion of his line, strengthening his defence at every opportunity by energetic and dashing attacks. Still there was no movement for the evacuation of his position. Ammunition and artillery was moved to the front and not ot the rear, and rebel generals, soldiers and citizens gained confidence with every day of indecisive battle.
The tide turned on Saturday night, when the victory of Five Forks was won. The possession of the Southside Railroad by our troops made Petersburg untenable. That Grant understood this was made evident by the tremendous cannonade opened all along that long line at midnight on Saturday. Then, as it seems to me, Lee determined upon the evacuation which was made absolutely compulsory by the victory of our forces on the left. The fighting on Sunday was only to cover the rebel retreat. Every thing was done is haste. The tobacco in Petersburg was set on fire on Sunday morning, - but the destruction was not made thorough, and enough was left to fill the pipe of every Union soldier who passed through the city for a month to come. The inhabitants did not believe in the evacuation, and went to bed, even on Sunday night, feeling secure and confident in the ability of Lee to defend the position. Nothing was taken from the forts, - guns, muskets, papers, tents, every thing was abandoned, as if the greatest hast must have prevailed in the last moments.
In Richmond, there was no unusual excitement on Sunday morning. Mr. Jefferson Davis was at church, his family being absent from the city. There is no truth in the story that he had sold his furniture. To Mr. Davis, at his devotions, entered an orderly with a dispatch from General Lee. The rebel president did not attempt to conceal his agitation, but left the church immediately, as did other leading citizens. Still there was no general alarm, no universal knowledge of the prospects of the day. Mr. Davis spent the afternoon at his own house, and left in the early evening by the Danville Railroad. He took little with him more than his private papers, and the furniture of his house is as if he had never left it. Little effort can have been made either to destroy or carry away the archives of the ruined government, and, as I have already said, even the most important papers, abandoned by both parties as worthless, are blowing about the gutters. During the afternoon the fact that the rebel officials were leaving became noised aborad, - and those who were not disposed to remain in the city under Yankee rule made every effort to get away. Sums which the people here call “astounding,” of “ten or fifteen dollars in gold or Federal currency,” were offered for vehicles and horses to convey the fugitives. The banks were opened in spite of the day, and directors and depositors busied themselves in getting away their specie.
With sunset came the head of the rebel columns under Ewell, marching in from the forts and through the city toward the west. Then and from that it was that the great mass of the population of Richmond knew that the city was to be given up. It was a night of horror and confusion. A committee of citizens, appointed at a secret session of the Common Council, undertook the destruction of all the liquor in the city. Casks and bottles were smashed by the thousand, - the gutters ran with wine and whiskey, and the very air was filled with the fumes of alcohol. The rebel soldiers as they passed filled their cups and canteens from the rivulets; many seemed to become drunk merely from the smell of liquor; and the last stragglers, wild with intoxications, outrages and pillaged everywhere like a swarm of demons.
Before General Ewell departed he ordered the burning of the tobacco warehouses on the river bank. Appealing citizens assured him that the only result of the fire, with the fresh breeze blowing from the south, would be the utter destruction of the city, - but the brutal old soldier only laughed and swore at the remonstrances, and reiterated his orders. The flames spread was was predicted. The two steam engines and two or three hand machines, worked feebly amid the universal excitement, were of little avail against a conflagration extending over scores of acres. In an hour hundreds of the poorer families of Richmond were wandering through the streets without shelter, carrying huge bundles of clothing or furniture which to lose sight of was to lose forever. As the flames spread and it became evident that they could not be saved, the stores were thrown open and the poor people who had houses left rolled away to them barrels of flour and pork enough to provide them for months. Plunder was the watchword of the night. The grocer entered the burning store of his neighbor and loaded his arms with clothing, only to meet the tailor coming out of his own door with his pockets full of coffee and sugar. It was a night which no one in Richmond will ever be likely to forget.
When daybreak came, the last rebel soldier had left the city on the west, and with daybreak entered on the east the Union cavalry men. As far as I can learn, a detachment of the Fourth Massachusetts Cavalry, under Major Stevens, first made their appearance in the city. The firemen, their heads filled with horrible stories of the barbarous Yankees, left their engines and fled. The Union troopers galloped after, brought them back to their duty, and aided them in extinguishing the flames. The breeze died away soon after sunrise, and the fire was at last providentially checked, after having burned over the immense area which I have already described.
General Weitzel had full information as to the torpedoes with which the rebel forts were strewn, and was too prudent to lead his men on such ground in the darkness. As soon as it was light, our column moved forward The precious rebel system of flags enabled us, by moving slowly and cautiously in single file, to cross the dangerous limits without accident, and then the army marched at full speed for the city. The column, headed by a division of white troops commanded by General Devens of Massachusetts, reached Richmond at about eight o’clock. The colored troops of the Twenty-fifth Corps followed in close order. General Weitzel established his headquarters in the mansion vacated by Jeff. Davis, and the Union occupation of the rebel capital was complete.