On might 20 <1861>, the Confederate conference voted to relocate the federal government to Richmond...With that, Virginia"s capital had become the really symbol that the Confederacy, and also the can be fried prize in a bloody war.

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--Ernest B. Furgurson, Ashes of Glory

Robert E. Lee

When the Confederate federal government moved native Montgomery, Alabama to Richmond, Virginia, the quiet, flourishing Virginia state funding was transformed right into a noisy, overfilled metropolis that, as Furgurson notes, was capital, army headquarters, transport hub, industrial heart, prison, and also hospital facility of the Confederacy. It was likewise a target for the Union army. In fact, the effort for both the Union and also the Confederate militaries during much of the Civil battle in the east focused on capturing or threaten the enemy"s resources city. Since the Union capital--Washington D.C.--and the Confederate capital--Richmond--were situated a just 100 mile apart, much of the fighting raged between these two cities. Washington was never seriously endangered by southerly forces, but Richmond experienced more than its re-publishing of alarms and also battles.

By beforehand spring 1865 the citizens of Richmond had end up being used to the risk of capture by the Federal army whose soldiers the Richmond newspapers defined with an excellent imagination together the vilest the humanity. Richmond had withstood some frighteningly near chances, and its inhabitants had grown accustomed to the sound of pho fire from simply ten miles outside the city. Their faith in Robert E. Lee to be so finish that they knew beyond the shadow of a doubt that he would never enable Richmond to be taken.

But the time had actually come for basic Lee to consider just such a necessity. He had actually been able to hold ago the Union pressures for practically 10 month at Petersburg till his depleted pressures were worn out and also his supplies dwindled come nothing. Finally, he come to believe that the could finest serve the Confederate reason by abandoning the capital. Furgurson records that Lee inquiry Lt. Gen. John B. Gordon for his opinion as to the Confederate Army"s next steps. Gordon advised that the Confederacy must seek tranquility terms. If the state were no acceptable, Gordon argued, the army should leaving Richmond and also Petersburg and also retreat southern to sign up with Gen. Joseph E. Johnston"s military in the Carolinas wherein their merged forces can concentrate on defeating the Union military under general William T. Sherman.

From a "moral and also political" viewpoint, Richmond"s fall would it is in "a significant calamity," Lee...conceded, but once that happened, he might prolong the battle for two more years on Virginia soil. Due to the fact that the war began he had actually been required to permit the opponent make strategic plans because that him, due to the fact that he had to defend the capital, however "when Richmond drops I shall have the ability to make them because that myself." --Ashes the Glory

Lee had always felt constrained through the duty to protect the Confederate capital. But abandoning it, he knew he might move an ext freely. Therefore when general Philip Sheridan"s troops overran Confederate defenses at 5 Forks top top Saturday April 1, Lee make the decision to give up the Petersburg defenses and, in act so, to give up Richmond.

Jefferson Davis 

Confederate president Jefferson Davis had discussed the probability of quitting Richmond v Lee a month earlier, and also he had currently sent his wife and also family the end of the city. In spite of these precautions, Davis still thought Lee could stave turn off disaster. The civilization of Richmond knew far less of what to be happening at the Petersburg lines than Davis, and they went about their company on Saturday ignorant of their unavoidable fate. Candid Lawley, the correspondent because that London newspaper, The Times, observed: "Upon the afternoon of Saturday, the an initial of April, Richmond, long acquainted with the signs and also sounds of war, wore its usual look of unconscious security, and also there were couple of persons acquainted v the fact that Sheridan, with some 6,000 or 8,000 cavalry, supported by Warrens"s corps the infantry and artillery, to be at job-related upon general Lee"s right, that he to be opposed just by a grasp of Confederate cavalry, and that momentous occasions were probably at hand."

I recommend that all preparation be made for leaving Richmond tonight. --General Lee"s telegram to chairman Jefferson Davis

Davis read basic Lee"s telegram if attending Sunday morning church service. He instantly issued the very first orders because that the Confederate government"s evacuation. Native spread throughout the city. Lawley reports, "...quickly indigenous mouth come mouth flew the sad tidings the in a few hours Richmond"s long and also gallant resistance would certainly be over." Officially, the citizens of Richmond did not hear anything for hours, yet they can not assist but notification the fires in prior of the government offices as official records burned. They maintained asking each various other what was happening.

Crowds gathered at the Spotswood and at basic Ewell"s office, a block away at Seventh and also Franklin Streets, swapping rumors, make the efforts to confirm them. At an initial those that knew had been evasive; one guy with federal government connections said a girlfriend he was "not at liberty to communicate" what the knew - however there had been disastrous fighting close to Petersburg ... "I"ll tell girlfriend that i shouldn"t it is in surprised if we room all far from here prior to twenty four hours."--Ashes of Glory

Official native of the Confederate government"s departure was finally announced in ~ 4 o"clock. Lawley reported: "The scene that followed baffles description. Throughout the lengthy afternoon and also throughout the feverish night, on horseback, in every description of cart, carriage, and vehicle, in every hurried train the left the city, top top canal barges, skiffs, and also boats, the exodus the officials and also prominent citizens to be unintermitted."

Davis refused to believe it was important to leave. His train was reserved to depart on April 2 at 8:30 Sunday night. He retained hoping that somehow Lee would send news that a reversal that fortunes and that the government would not need to abandon the city. Finally, at 11 o"clock, the boarded the train and began the sad pilgrimage to Danville. Lawley wrote: "Up come the hour the their leave from Richmond I have the right to testify the Mr. Davis and the 3 most prominent members of his room went undaunted forth to meet the future, not without expect that general Lee would be able to hold with each other a considerable remnant that his army, and to result a junction with general Johnston."

All through the night preparations for fleeing indigenous the city kept the Richmonders busy. When the last Confederate soldiers rode throughout the pontoon bridge to capture up through Lee"s troops, those left behind thought they would return soon, to take it the city ago from the Yankees. In the city small fires of document still burned.

Richard S. Ewell and also Godfrey Weitzel

Despite every effort made top top the part of the few remaining Confederate soldiers and the city"s officials, chaos ruled Richmond the night. Understanding that the Union military was about to get in the town, and also having heard just how badly the city that Columbia, southern Carolina had actually fared as soon as Union soldiers found the stores of whisky, Richmond"s officials ordered all liquor to be destroyed. In the require for haste, however, those guys charged v going with the stocks of every saloon and warehouse uncovered the many expedient way was to smash the bottles and pour the kegs into the gutters and also down the street drains. The stench attracted crowds. Lock gulped the whisky native the curbstones, choose it up in your hats and boots, and guzzled it prior to stooping because that more. Therefore the activity taken to prevent a Union army rampage began a rampage by the city"s very own people.

Lt. Gen. Richard S. Ewell, Richmond"s armed forces commander, was also under assignment to damage the city"s tobacco, cotton, and foodstuffs prior to the Yankees acquired to them. To destroy the tobacco, Ewell had actually it relocated to buildings that he thought could burn without setting the remainder of the city ~ above fire and asked the fire department to was standing by to save the fire indigenous spreading.

In a city that had actually been enduring from scarcity, where high officials held "Starvation Balls," no one believed there can be much food left to destroy. However they were wrong. "The many revolting revelation," created LaSalle Pickett, "was the lot of provisions, shoes and also clothing which had been gathered by the speculators who hovered prefer vultures over the step of death and also desolation. Taking benefit of your possession that money and also lack that both patriotism and also humanity, castle had, by very early corner in the market and by effective blockade running, carried up every the available supplies through an eye come future gain, while our soldiers and women and also children to be absolutely in rags, barefoot and also starving." The crowd, seeing the commissaries filled v smoked meats, flour, sugar, and also coffee, came to be ugly.

Enraged, they snatched the food and also clothing and turned come the adjacent shops to loot every little thing else they found. They were impossible to stop. Ewell tried, but he had only convalescent soldiers and also a couple of army staff police officers under his command in ~ this point. Not practically enough males to lug order ago to the streets. The fires, though, grew out the control, burn the center of the city and also driving the looters away.

Embers native the street fires of main papers and also from the paper torches supplied by vandals drifted. The wind picked up. An additional building recorded fire. The company district recorded fire. Worse, together Admiral Raphael Semmes wrote, "The Tredegar Iron functions were on fire, and also continual explosions that loaded shell stored there were acquisition place....The populace was in a good state of alarm." Lawley report that together he walked toward the railroad station he witnessed a pillar of dense black smoke. Semmes had collection his ironclads ~ above fire to keep them the end of Union hands. Moments later, the warships" arsenals exploded blowing the home windows out for 2 miles around, overturning tombstones, and also tearing doors from their hinges.

The Union cavalry entered town. By 7:15 Monday morning, April 3, 2 guidons of the 4th Massachusetts cavalry flew over the capitol building. Not long after, two police officers of the 13th brand-new York artillery took under the little triangular flags and also ran up the an excellent United says flag. Union general Godfrey Weitzel sent a telegram to general Grant: "We took Richmond at 8:15 this morning. I captured many guns. The foe left in great haste. The city is top top fire in 2 places. Am making every effort to put it out. The human being received us with enthusiastic expression of joy."

Weitzel bespeak his troops to placed out the fire. The city"s 2 fire engines worked, bucket brigades were formed. Threatened structures were pulled under to create firebreaks. 5 hours later on the wind ultimately shifted, and also they started to bring it under control. Every or component of at least 54 blocks to be destroyed, according to Furgurson. Weitzel composed "The rebel capitol, fired by men placed in that to safeguard it, was saved from full destruction through soldiers the the united States, who had taken possession." and the city rested.

Abraham Lincoln

At City allude a couple of miles downstream, U.S. Chairman Abraham Lincoln had learned the Richmond"s capture and was eager to visit the city. Rear Admiral David Dixon Porter arranged because that a grand pilgrimage upstream because that his chairman on Tuesday. His gunboats, flags flying, lined the river and the sailors cheered as Lincoln, in Porter"s flagship, the Malvern, sailed upstream. The trip, however, was no as smooth together the admiral would have liked. The Malvern encountered sunken Confederate boats in the James River. He moved the president right into a barge, which to be tugged upstream. Yet then the tug encountered another Confederate obstruction. The ropes to be thrown turn off the tug and the seafarers leaned right into their oars. Castle pulled against the current until they involved the rapids. The sailors jumped right into the river, freed the boat, and headed towards the very first safe landing point out they might find.

The barge landing at Rocketts, 2 miles from their destination, Capitol Square. No Union soldiers met them, however those ~ above the shore known the high man. A crowd, plenty of recently freed slaves, created as they strode along the streets. Recalled one contemporary: "Every window was crowded with heads. Yet it was a quiet crowd. There to be something opening in those hundreds of watchers there is no a sound, either of welcome or hatred. Ns think we would have actually welcomed a yell the defiance." Others were exuberant, laughing, yelling. Castle tried to grab Lincoln"s hand and also kiss his boots. The sailors developed a guard around him. Admiral Porter and also his guys were anxious; the crowd might crush his chairman or an assassin can come nearby without ever being seen. The seafarers cleared the method with bayonets until, at last, a mounties party met them and also escorted the president to what had actually been the Confederate executive, management Mansion. According to Carl Sandburg,

Any one of many kinds that fools could have take away a pot shot in ~ Lincoln that day. --Carl Sandburg

Soon climate Lincoln collection out on a sightseeing tour of the burned-out, sad-looking Confederate funding with basic Weitzel as his guide and a big cavalry escort to defend him. He went to Libby Prison and Castle Thunder, the 2 prisons wherein not long prior to Union soldiers had suffered. Lock rode come Camp Lee whereby the U.S. Colored Troops had collection up your camp. Lock drove about the melted out service district. Weitzel asked president Lincoln for guidance: exactly how should that treat the human being of the city? "If i were in her place," Lincoln called him, " I"d let "em up easy, permit "em increase easy."

After the afternoon tour, the presidential party returned to Porter"s flagship, come Admiral Porter"s relief.

Word that Richmond"s autumn had been telegraphed throughout the unified States. Newspaperman George Townsend wrote, "This town is the rebellion. That is all that us have straight striven for; quitting it, the Confederate leaders have actually quitted your sheet-anchor, their roof-tree, their abiding hope. Its background is the epitome of the whole contest, and also to us, shivering our thunderbolts against it for much more than 4 years, Richmond is tho a mystery." To honor the lengthy struggle to take it the Confederate capital, an main order was given. And also so, at noon, when Lincoln toured the city, a one-hundred-gun artillery salute was fired in ~ all military posts, arsenals and naval bases.

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Five hard-fought job later general Lee and the military of north Virginia surrendered to U.S. Grant. And four job after that, Lincoln to be assassinated. Johnston surrendered his army to Sherman ~ above April 18. Lee had gambled that the Confederacy can survive the loss of that is capital--that leaving Richmond would market him a flexibility of activity that can spell hope. However hope passed away when Richmond fell.