Richmond's Dawn Over Ruins, Today-154-Years-Ago, April 4 1865

Fewer ads. Lots of American Civil War content!
JOIN NOW: REGISTER HERE!

JPK Huson 1863

Brev. Brig. Gen'l
Forum Host
Joined
Feb 14, 2012
Location
Central Pennsylvania
barges whole j.jpg

Image is referred to as ' African Americans on barges, Richmond '. Using this photo from April, 1865 because yes, it is but it's also displaced civilians who fled flames and chaos, saving what they could. These Richmond citizens were some of the lucky ones.
barges furniture j.jpg

Who knows how many households are represented here? Veritable bales of goods wrapped in sheets, kitchen hutches, blankets, baskets, beds and cookware crowd barge decks. Looters? Nope. Richmond citizens whose new home was an open air house boat.

new 1.JPG


Asking for leeway on this thread please. So many photos tell awfully long stories. It's genuinely difficult ascertaining how much of them to tell in the ' Period Photos & Examinations forum- we don't have huge, long stories here. The thing is sometimes the photos exist because of that story- as is the case with all those ruins we see at Richmond, Virginia.

Sign we see on a gaping, crumbled building by the canal is " McCarthy and Young ", a lumber and grocery wholesale business. Young had retired the year previously, bought out by another man. They hadn't changed the sign as of 1865.
mccarthy young sign.JPG



Second disclaimer ( sorry ) is please please do not create more ruins of the thread. Richmond looks the way it does in these LoC and National Archives images because THE perfect storm of events occurred on top of THE perfect storm of conditions. It was a little inevitable.

By April, 1865 civilians had endured a grueling war. Blockaded deprivation, at first endured with patriotic teeth clenching and defiance had become onerous. The slowly emerging knowledge that while civilians suffered for sheer lack speculators sat on hoarded goods created resentment and a lot of it. You can't shame anyone into patriotic duty when it wasn't collective. The famous Bread Riots of previous years proved this although newspapers continued to mostly snark at any family not willing to suffer.

news 2.JPG


news area burned.JPG


Add to this the chaos ensuing as two armies pretty much switched places inside Richmond, as much panic over enemy troops on the horizon as watching Confederate troops withdraw. Ewell, following orders, torched key warehouses and facilities, Breckinridge despairingly pleaded against this action. You get the idea he foresaw these the images taken later.

Kaboom.

dollars.JPG

burnt district.JPG


There's so much more. It was an awful night. The almshouse was burned with residents inside, so swiftly did the flames spread.
 

JPK Huson 1863

Brev. Brig. Gen'l
Forum Host
Joined
Feb 14, 2012
Location
Central Pennsylvania
It's difficult getting information on how many civilians were killed. From what you can read, because Breckinridge had been so bitterly opposed to the initial burning of warehouses and military buildings, his ' I told you so ' was too prophetic.

banks.JPG


Cary Street, coming up to Libby Prison. Bystanders craning to see prisoners ( now Confederate ) stand on rubble from the days before.
l2 3.JPG
 
Fewer ads. Lots of American Civil War content!
JOIN NOW: REGISTER HERE!
Fewer ads. Lots of American Civil War content!
JOIN NOW: REGISTER HERE!

JPK Huson 1863

Brev. Brig. Gen'l
Forum Host
Joined
Feb 14, 2012
Location
Central Pennsylvania
I didn't realize Breckenridge was arguing against firing the warehouses, etc. Why didn't anyone listen to him? And why did they do that?

Yes, had no idea he'd been so strenuously opposed to it. I wish I could say definitively why he was so opposed ( although that wasn't your question ), newspapers repeatedly report his concern was for civilians. You can guess by war's end men like he had seen enough destruction. It was also more than clear by that point- scant weeks before Appomattox, the end was imminent. Men like Breckinridge may have felt appalled by the idea there'd be yet more rebuilding to do and how futile a gesture burning warehouses, especially given the risk to civilians.

According to newspapers, Ewell was following by-the-book orders, destroy various buildings to disallow the Union army getting their hands on them. Common enough practice by both sides ( makes you wince reading of ships destroyed at various times during the war ), he'd received those orders and was determined to carry them out. Wish I could find more on the exchanges between Ewell and Breckinridge, bet one of our experts has it. Someone here at CWT always has this stuff!
 

JPK Huson 1863

Brev. Brig. Gen'l
Forum Host
Joined
Feb 14, 2012
Location
Central Pennsylvania
I can't find what happened to Rockets? Some of my favorite images of Richmond are those from the hill, Rockets below and the ship yard across the river. I'm very bad at maps- does anyone know if that area was burned?
 
Fewer ads. Lots of American Civil War content!
JOIN NOW: REGISTER HERE!

byron ed

2nd Lieutenant
Joined
Mar 22, 2017
Location
Midwest
"...In the winter of '65
We were hungry, just barely alive
By May the 10th, Richmond had fell
It's a time I remember, oh so well


The night they drove old Dixie down
And the bells were ringing
The night they drove old Dixie down
And the people were singing
They went, "Na, na, la, na, na, la..."


This will only resound with we baby boomers, but what was up with Southern songwriter Robbie Robertson lamenting the destruction of Richmond when clearly "they" could only mean the Confederate forces that started the fire? Virgil Cane (first person in the song) would have known that. And what was up with Californian Joan Baez leveraging this song as some sort of social justice comment at rallies? Perhap the then-quite-young singer was not very informed on Civil War history, so to give her a pass I guess.
 

Pat Young

Brev. Brig. Gen'l
Featured Book Reviewer
Joined
Jan 7, 2013
Location
Long Island, NY
"...In the winter of '65
We were hungry, just barely alive
By May the 10th, Richmond had fell
It's a time I remember, oh so well


The night they drove old Dixie down
And the bells were ringing
The night they drove old Dixie down
And the people were singing
They went, "Na, na, la, na, na, la..."


This will only resound with we baby boomers, but what was up with Southern songwriter Robbie Robertson lamenting the destruction of Richmond when clearly "they" could only mean the Confederate forces that started the fire? Virgil Cane (first person in the song) would have known that. And what was up with Californian Joan Baez leveraging this song as some sort of social justice comment at rallies? Perhap the then-quite-young singer was not very informed on Civil War history, so to give her a pass I guess.
At the time it was sung as a “horrors of war song.”
 

DaveBrt

2nd Lieutenant
Joined
Mar 6, 2010
Location
Charlotte, NC
On Attach 300854, just to the right of center of the Richmond portion is the capital, fronting onto Capital Street. From the capital, go toward the river -- the burned out area just across Bank Street and all those around Main Street were government offices. The Railroad Bureau was in the group across Main (Blevin's Block of offices). Right of the capital, between Main and Bank Streets, fronting 9th Street, was the War Department (the burned out block).

The burned warehouses were closer to the river, across and below Cary Street and to the upper right, toward Bird and Arch Streets. The warehouse area was down the hill from the capital and offices.
 
Fewer ads. Lots of American Civil War content!
JOIN NOW: REGISTER HERE!

ErnieMac

Brigadier General
Moderator
Forum Host
Joined
May 3, 2013
Location
Pennsylvania
I can't find what happened to Rockets? Some of my favorite images of Richmond are those from the hill, Rockets below and the ship yard across the river. I'm very bad at maps- does anyone know if that area was burned?
Many references suggest that the naval yard were burned, but I think the retreating Confederates did not do a thorough job. Two of the more noted photos appear to have been taken after the evacuation. One of them follows. According to a post in the Vintage Richmond website (see link: http://vintagerva.blogspot.com/2011/03/view-of-rocketts-landing-from-libby.html ) you can identify (his eyes are better than mine) the remains of the CSS Patrick Henry in the James River and the hull of the still incomplete CSS Texas on the shipways. The CSS Patrick Henry was destroyed during the night of April 2 - 3, 1865 and the CSS Texas was towed to Norfolk on May 4, 1865, giving a time frame during which the photo was taken.
1556035452278.png
 

RochesterBill

Corporal
Joined
Oct 11, 2016
Of particular interest on these boards is the correct reading of the lyrics.

Most people hear - and I've even seen the song transcribed this way - "'til so much cavalry came..."

The actual verse, written by Canadian Robbie Robertson of The Band, is:

Virgil Caine is my name
and I drove on the Danville train

'Til Stoneman's cavalry came
and tore up the tracks again

The song is a description of the destruction wrecked by George Stoneman's raid into Virginia which was aimed at cutting off the Saltville mines from the Confederate supply system. They succeeded in this regard, in the process of which they did indeed tear up the tracks around Danville VA,which were never replaced.

(Ona side note, the version most peopleare familiar with is theJoan Baez cover, which Robertson hated so much that he refusedto everperformit again. Hefelt she turned it into an anti-war ballad instead of focusing on the plight of a poor southerner struggling to survive chaos,which was what he intended.)
 

Pat Young

Brev. Brig. Gen'l
Featured Book Reviewer
Joined
Jan 7, 2013
Location
Long Island, NY
Of particular interest on these boards is the correct reading of the lyrics.

Most people hear - and I've even seen the song transcribed this way - "'til so much cavalry came..."

The actual verse, written by Canadian Robbie Robertson of The Band, is:

Virgil Caine is my name
and I drove on the Danville train

'Til Stoneman's cavalry came
and tore up the tracks again

The song is a description of the destruction wrecked by George Stoneman's raid into Virginia which was aimed at cutting off the Saltville mines from the Confederate supply system. They succeeded in this regard, in the process of which they did indeed tear up the tracks around Danville VA,which were never replaced.

(Ona side note, the version most peopleare familiar with is theJoan Baez cover, which Robertson hated so much that he refusedto everperformit again. Hefelt she turned it into an anti-war ballad instead of focusing on the plight of a poor southerner struggling to survive chaos,which was what he intended.)
The song is performed in The Last Waltz.

Baez says she recorded the song without having a copy of the lyrics and mistook the cavalry line.

I have also heard it performed as “Stonewall’s cavalry.”
 
Fewer ads. Lots of American Civil War content!
JOIN NOW: REGISTER HERE!

byron ed

2nd Lieutenant
Joined
Mar 22, 2017
Location
Midwest
At the time it was sung as a “horrors of war song.”
...yet clearly in the context of continued and unjust use of Federal forces but this time in Vietnam, which was the more specific intended vibe at the time, yes? We're too old to be naive.
 

Pat Young

Brev. Brig. Gen'l
Featured Book Reviewer
Joined
Jan 7, 2013
Location
Long Island, NY
...yet clearly in the context of continued and unjust use of Federal forces but this time in Vietnam, which was the more specific intended vibe at the time, yes? We're too old to be naive.
I doubt it was about Federal forces as it was about how young people suffer and die in war. Virgil’s brother is depicted as a victim, not a hero.
 

byron ed

2nd Lieutenant
Joined
Mar 22, 2017
Location
Midwest
...Ona side note, the version most peopleare familiar with is theJoan Baez cover, which Robertson hated so much that he refusedto everperformit again. Hefelt she turned it into an anti-war ballad instead of focusing on the plight of a poor southerner struggling to survive chaos,which was what he intended.)
That is interesting, and makes sense of Robertson's actual inspiration; fixes my perceived problem with the song. Baez was perhaps caught up in some kind of California political protest vibe.
 
Last edited:
Fewer ads. Lots of American Civil War content!
JOIN NOW: REGISTER HERE!

byron ed

2nd Lieutenant
Joined
Mar 22, 2017
Location
Midwest
I doubt it was about Federal forces as it was about how young people suffer and die in war. Virgil’s brother is depicted as a victim, not a hero.
It was clearly more than just a song about young people suffering and dying in war. It was also to blame "the man." There was a "between-the-lines" in perfoming this song in the venue of a rally, and there was enough of a socially-aware young audience to pick up on it at the time. This may be a "you'd have to have been there" thing.
 

rebelatsea

1st Lieutenant
Joined
Mar 30, 2013
Location
Kent ,England.
Many references suggest that the naval yard were burned, but I think the retreating Confederates did not do a thorough job. Two of the more noted photos appear to have been taken after the evacuation. One of them follows. According to a post in the Vintage Richmond website (see link: http://vintagerva.blogspot.com/2011/03/view-of-rocketts-landing-from-libby.html ) you can identify (his eyes are better than mine) the remains of the CSS Patrick Henry in the James River and the hull of the still incomplete CSS Texas on the shipways. The CSS Patrick Henry was destroyed during the night of April 2 - 3, 1865 and the CSS Texas was towed to Norfolk on May 4, 1865, giving a time frame during which the photo was taken.
View attachment 304071
That is actually William Graves yard across the river. CSS Texas constructed at Rocketts was already afloat, launched in January 1865. There is no sign of her in this photo suggesting she is either behind the trees in the crown of the bend or already gone, if the latter making the date of this on or after May 4th. The vessel partly visible behind the trees is believed to be the second of the two Abrahams Tobacco Company boats which never left the slip until after the war. There is a torpedo boat and un indentified (gunboat?) on stocks. Graves Yard was totally untouched and taken intact.
 
Fewer ads. Lots of American Civil War content!
JOIN NOW: REGISTER HERE!
Top