From the Cape Weekly Tribune (Cape Girardeau, Mo.), 10/2/1914, p. 4, c. 3

By Rev. J. J. Clopton.

The sad, stirring and awful circumstances attendant on the fall of the Confederate capitol, are vividly stamped upon my memory. I was a small child. My first recollection was seeing my negro nurse, a young girl, weeping. On questioning her I was told that Richmond had been evacuated. This knowledge came to me on the beautiful spring Sabbath, April 2.

The next morning I was up bright and early with my father. Parts of the city not very distant from my home were in flames. We lived at the foot of the noted "Van Lew Garden," the home of Miss Lizzie Van Lew, who all through the Civil War, was a Union spy. Running the length of a full block the garden opposite us was buttressed up by a high brick wall.

At an early hour my father through out all the arms that were in the house. Those loaded were fired against the brick wall. They were then given away to any who would accept them. Among them were some of the arms used by an elder brother who died in southern service. Near my home was a large tobacco factory - used as naval headquarters - late Sunday afternoon, April 2, it was abandoned.

My youthful memory now recalls the brave handful of the navy marching away. The next morning I found myself one of a multitude roaming through this naval depot. Persons were helping themselves to everything in sight.

Later in the day, but still early, great crowds passed our home laden with all kinds of merchandise from the plundered stores. The Union army had not arrived. The Confederate was gone and there were none to hinder. Years after a friend of mine told me an amusing incident of this confusion. A party of plunderers were trying to enter a store, among the number, all using an immense beam as a battering ram, was a huge negro. A Union soldier, mounted, rode up to the crowd and ordered them to disperse. They were loath to obey. Riding into the crowd, he beat it right and left with the flat of his sword.

This was too much for Sambo. Glancing over his shoulder at the soldier he exclaimed: "La! dey done gone back on us," and fled. As the morning wore on, they were filled with everlasting action. A mounted soldier rode past our home on the paved side walk ordering all persons to stay in doors. The magazine near the city exploded and the jar was like an earthquake. It seemed when the Union army started in it would never end its march. With childish interest I watched regiment after regiment march along the main street. The army were the saviors of the fire stricken city. It had been fired Sunday night by the retreating Confederates, not to destroy anything but supplies of food to prevent its use by the Union forces. Guards were established all over the city and quiet assured.

I have been told by a member of my family that after night fall the Union cavalry marched passed our home. The band playing most beauty full, "Hail Columbia."

Out of its ashes has arisen the beautiful city of modern Richmond. It is now nested on the banks of, the beautiful James a splendid metropolis of nearly 140,000 people.

Go to top