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RICHMOND, VIRGINIA, AT THE CLOSE OF THE WAR, AFTER IT HAD BEEN BURNED BY THE CONFEDERATES. FROM THE POTOMAC RIVER. THE BUILDING ON THE HIGH GROUND IN THE CENTER IS THE CAPITOL,
BY CHARLES A. DANA,
Assistant Secretary of War from 1863 to 1865.
WITH PORTRAITS AND OTHER PICTURES FROM THE WAR DEPARTMENT COLLECTION OF CIVIL WAR PHOTOGRAPHS.
THE END OF THE WAR.
LL through the fall of 1864 I was very much occupied in arranging for soldiers to go home to vote and for the taking of ballots in the army. There was a constant succession of telegrams requesting that leave of absence be extended to various officers, in order that their districts at home might have the benefit of their influence and votes; that furloughs be granted to men; and that men on detached service and convalescents in hospitals be sent home.
All the power and influence of the War Department, then something enormous from the vast expenditure and extensive relations of the war, was employed to secure the reëlection of Mr. Lincoln. The political struggle was most intense, and the interest taken in it, both in the White House and in the War Department, was almost painful. After the arduous toil of the canvass, there was necessarily a great suspense of feeling until the result of the voting should be ascertained. On November 8th, election day, I
went over to the War Department about GENERAL LEWIS B. PARSONS, MANAGER OF RAILROAD
half-past eight in the evening, and found
AND RIVER ARMY TRANSPORTATION DURING THE WAR.
the President and Mr. Stanton together in the Secretary's office. Major Eckert, who then had charge of the telegraph department of the War Office, was coming in constantly with telegrams containing election returns. Mr. Stanton would read them, and the President would look at them and comment upon them. Presently there came a lull in the returns, and Mr. Lincoln called me to a place by his side.
"Dana," said he, "have you ever read any of the writings of Petroleum V. Nasby?" "No, sir," I said, "I have only looked at some of them, and they seemed to be quite funny."
and desponding temperament-this was Mr. Lincoln's prevailing characteristic-that the safety and sanity of his intelligence were maintained and preserved.
The election was hardly over before the people of the North began to prepare Thanksgiving boxes for the army. George Bliss, Jr., of New York, telegraphed me, on November 16th, that they had 20,000 turkeys ready in that city to send, and the next day, fearing, I suppose, that that wasn't enough, he wired: "It would be a very great convenience in our turkey business if I could
know definitely the approximate number of men in the armies of the Potomac, James, and Shenandoah respectively." From Philadelphia I received a message asking for transportation to Sheridan's army for "boxes containing 4,000 turkeys, and heaven knows what else, as a Thanksgiving dinner for the brave fellows.' And so it was, from all over the country.
"Well,' said he, "let me read you a specimen," and, pulling out a thin, yellow-covered pamphlet from his breast pocket, he began to read aloud. Mr. Stanton viewed these proceedings with great impatience, as I could see; but Mr. Lincoln paid no attention to that. He would read a page or a story, pause to consider a new election telegram, and then open the book again and go ahead with a new passage. FinalA couple of months ly, Mr. Chase came later, in January, in, and presently Mr. 1865, a piece of work Whitelaw Reid, and not so different from then the reading was the "turkey busiinterrupted. Mr. Stanton went to the door, ness, " but on a rather larger scale, fell and beckoned me into the next room. I to me. This was the transfer of the Twentyshall never forget the fire of his indigna- third Army Corps, commanded by Majortion at what seemed to him to be mere non- General John M. Schofield, from its position sense. The idea that, when the safety of on the Tennessee River to Chesapeake Bay. the Republic was thus at issue, when the Grant had ordered the corps transferred control of an empire was to be determined as quickly as possible, and Mr. Stanton by a few figures brought in by the tele- turned over the direction of it to me. On graph, the leader, the man most deeply January 10th, I telegraphed Grant at City concerned, not merely for himself, but for Point the plan to be followed. This, briefly, his country, could turn aside to read such was to send Colonel Lewis B. Parsons, chief balderdash and to laugh at such frivolous of railroad and river transportation, to the jests was to his mind repugnant, even West to take charge of the corps. I prodamnable. He could not understand, ap- posed to move the whole body by boats parently, that it was by the relief which to Parkersburg, if navigation allowed, and these jests afforded to the strain of mind thence by the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad under which Lincoln had so long been living to Annapolis, for I remembered well with and to the natural gloom of a melancholy what promptness and success Hooker's
GENERAL GODFREY WEITZEL, WHO COMMANDED THE
UNION FORCES IN RICHMOND AFTER ITS EVACUA-
forces, the Eleventh and Twelfth corps, were moved into Tennessee in 1863 by that road. A capital advantage of that line was that it avoided all large towns-a bad thing for the soldiers. If the Ohio River should be frozen, I proposed to move the corps by rail from Cairo, Evansville, and Jeffersonville, to Parkersburg or Bellaire, according to circumstances.
Commanders along the proposed route were advised of the removal, and ordered to prepare steamboats and transports. Loyal officers of railroads were requested to meet Colonel Parsons at given points, to arrange for the concentration of rolling-stock in case the river could not be used. Liquor shops were ordered closed along the route, and arrangements were made for the comfort of the troops by supplying them as often as once in every hundred miles of travel with an abundance of hot coffee, in addition to their rations.
Colonel Parsons left on the 11th for Louisville, where he arrived on the 13th. By the morning of the 18th, he had started the first division from the mouth of the Tennessee up the Ohio, and had transportation ready for the rest of the corps. He then hurried to Cincinnati, where, on the 21st, as the river was too full of ice to permit a further transfer by water, he loaded some 3,000 men on the cars waiting there, and started them eastward. The rest of the corps rapidly followed. In spite
of fogs and ice on the river, and broken rails and machinery on the railroads, the entire army corps was encamped on the banks of the Potomac on February 2d.
The distance transported was nearly 1,400 miles, about equally divided between land and water. The average time of transportation, from the embarkment on the Tennessee
to the arrival on the banks of the Potomac, was not exceeding eleven days; and what was still more important was the fact that, during the whole movement, not a single accident happened causing loss of life, limb, or property, except in the single instance of a soldier jumping from a car, under an apprehension of danger. He lost his life, when, had he remained quiet, he would have been as safe as were his comrades in the
THE FALL OF RICHMOND.
All of the winter of 1864-65 I passed in Washington, occupied with these matters and the regular business of the Department. It was evident to all of us, as the spring came on, that the war was drawing to a close. Sherman was coming northward from his triumphant march to the sea, and would soon be in communication with Grant, who, ever since I left him in July, 1864, had been watching Petersburg and Richmond, where Lee's army was shut up. The end of March, Grant advanced. On April 1st, Sheridan won the battle of Five Forks; then, on April 2d, came the successful assaults which drove Lee from Petersburg.
On the morning of April 3d, before I had left my house, Mr. Stanton sent for me to come immediately to the War Department. When I got over there, he told me that Richmond had surrendered and that he wanted me to go down at once to report the condition of affairs. I started as soon as I could get a steamboat, Roscoe Conkling and my son Paul accompanying me. We reached City Point early on April 5th. Little was known there of the condition of
things in Richmond. There were but a few officers left at the place, and those were overwhelmed with work. I had expected to find President Lincoln at City Point, as he had been in the vicinity for several days, but he had gone up to Richmond the day before.
I started up the river immediately, and reached Richmond early in the afternoon. I went at once to find Major-General Godfrey Weitzel, who was in command of the United States forces. He was at his headquarters, which were in Jefferson Davis's former residence. I had heard down the river that Davis had sold his furniture at auction, some days before the evacuation, but I found when I reached the house that this was a mistake: the furniture was all there.
On arriving, I immediately made inquiries about official papers. I found that the records and papers of the departments and of Congress were generally removed before the evacuation, and that, during the fire, the Capitol was ransacked and the documents were scattered. In the rooms of the secretary of the Senate, and of the military committee of the House of Representatives, in the State House, we found some papers of importance. They were in various cases and drawers, and in great confusion. They were more or less imperfect and fragmentary. In the State engineer's office there were also some boxes of papers relating to the Confederate works on the Potomac, about Norfolk, and on the Peninsula. I had all of these packed in boxes without attempting to put them in order, and they were sent soon after to Washington.
Weitzel told me that he had learned at three o'clock in the morning on Monday,
General Weitzel told me that he had found about 20,000 people in Richmond, half of them of African descent. He said that, when the President entered the town on the 4th, he received a most enthusiastic reception from the mass of the inhabitants. All the members of Congress had escaped. Only the Assistant Secretary of War, Judge Campbell, remained. Most of the newspaper editors had fled, but the "Whig" appeared on the 4th as a Union paper, with the name of its former proprietor at its head. The night after I arrived the theater opened.
There was much suffering and poverty among the population, the rich as well as the poor being destitute of food. Weitzel had decided to issue supplies to all who would take the oath. In my first message to Mr. Stanton I spoke of this. He immediately answered: "Please ascertain from General Weitzel under what authority he is distributing rations to the people of Richmond, as I suppose he would not do it without authority; and direct him to report daily the amount of rations distributed by his order to persons not belonging to the military service and not authorized by law to receive
April 3d, that Richmond was being evacuated, and had moved forward at daylight, first taking care to give his men breakfast, in the expectation that they might have to fight. He met no opposition, and on entering the city, was greeted with a hearty welcome from the mass of people: the mayor went out to meet him to surrender the city, but missed him on the road.
I took a walk around Richmond that day to see how much the city was injured. The Confederates, in retreating, had set it on fire, and the damage done in that way was enormous nearly everything between Main Street and the river, for about three-quarters of a mile, was burned. The Custom House and the Spotswood Hotel were the only important buildings remaining in the burned district. The block opposite the Spotswood, including the War Department building, was entirely destroyed. The Petersburg railroad bridge and that of the Danville road were destroyed. All the enemy's vessels, excepting an unfinished ram, which had her machinery in perfect order, were burned. The Tredegar Iron Works were unharmed. Libby Prison and Castle Thunder had also escaped the fire.