Petersburg/Richmond Say What Saturday: The Fall of Richmond April 3, 1865

lelliott19

Brigadier General
Moderator
* OFFICIAL *
CWT PRESENTER
Forum Host
Silver Patron
Joined
Mar 15, 2013
1617411024842.png

The evacuation of Richmond on April 3, 1865. There may have been no singular event during the Civil War that resulted in such a dichotomy of emotions among the opposing armies: the Rebels were devastated, dejected, and overcome with grief, while the Yankees were elated, exultant, and overjoyed.

When Ulysses S. Grant delivered his final push against Lee's Petersburg lines, Brig Gen Edward Porter Alexander was stationed at the Richmond end of the Confederate line as chief of artillery. When he returned to camp that Sunday evening, April 2, he was ordered to General Joseph B. Kershaw, from whom he learned of Grant's attack and of the order to immediately evacuate Richmond. Alexander ordered his troops to spike their guns - the exception being light artillery that would be taken along. The rest of the artillery troops were to act as infantry. Alexander and his men started across Mayo's Bridge early on the morning of April 3. At daylight, a burning canal boat endangered the last battery when it drifted towards the bridge and threatened to burn it down. Some men, however, were able to push the flaming vessel away, allowing everyone else to cross unharmed.

In his reminiscences, Fighting for the Confederacy, Alexander wrote of his emotions:
It was after sunrise of a bright morning when from the Manchester high grounds we turned to take our last look at the old city for which we had fought so long and so hard. It was a sad, a terrible & a solemn sight. I don't know that any moment in the whole war impressed me more deeply with all its stern realities than this. The whole river front seemed to be in flames, amid which occasional heavy explosions were heard, and the black smoke spreading & hanging over the city seemed to be full of dreadful portents. I rode on with a distinctly heavy heart & with a peculiar sort of feeling of orphanage. [1]​

William T Walton, a Private of Company B, Hampton Legion, remembered it similarly:
Our command brought up the rear of Lee's army when we passed out of Richmond with sad hearts, leaving our glorious Capitol that we had been defending four long years. [2]​

The Rev. John Kershaw accompanying his father, Maj Gen Joseph Brevard Kershaw, on that fateful day, recalled:
We halted near the bridge until the rear guard passed, when we also moved on and halted in the quiet streets of Manchester. From that point, the view of Richmond was terrible indeed. The whole city seemed to be doomed to destruction. The sun rose upon a dense black cloud of smoke hanging over the Capital of the Confederacy, while the roar of flames was audible miles away..... To enhearten the soldiers, the bands were ordered to play, and so to lively music, we set out on the retreat. [3]​

[1] Alexander, Edward Porter Fighting for the Confederacy
[2] The Anderson Intelligencer., March 25, 1903, page 2.
[3] The Watchman and Southron., September 03, 1910, page 3.
 

lelliott19

Brigadier General
Moderator
* OFFICIAL *
CWT PRESENTER
Forum Host
Silver Patron
Joined
Mar 15, 2013
1617417239674.png

On the morning of April 3rd, the Union regiments awoke from their positions on the outskirts of the Confederate Capital to find that the enemy had abandoned the city. A member of the 9th Vermont recalled:
As the march progressed an elevation was climbed, there was a turn in the road, and suddenly Richmond was in full view. Smoke and flames streamed from many buildings, and there was a cannonade of bombs, which it proved came from the burning arsenal. The earth seemed to vibrate with these explosions and those of the magazines of the gunboats in the James River.​
There was a lively race between the Vermonters and a colored brigade for the first entry into the Confederate stronghold. It was on this occasion that Col., then Captain, Hooker of Gen. Devens' staff was guilty of an effectual bit of bluff, when claiming to act by Gen. Devens' authority, he ordered the colored troops to halt, while the Vermonters ran ahead at a lively double quick.​
...The Fourth Massachusetts Cavalry was the first Union regiment to enter Richmond, but to the Ninth Vermont belonged the glory of being the first infantry regiment to enter it after the Confederates left so unceremoniously. [Vermont Phœnix., April 09, 1897, page 4.]​

The men of the 29th Connecticut (Colored Regiment) had also been ordered forward by their commander Colonel William B. Wooster. They arrived in the city at 7 a.m., marching down Main Street.
1617416515092.png

The only known photo of 29th Connecticut Infantry Regiment 1864. Library of Congress

When President Abraham Lincoln arrived the next day, April 4th, to make his “triumphant entry into the city” a soldier from the 29th Connecticut recounted how he turned to a nearby black women and said, “Madam, there is the man that made you free.” Gazing at the President, the women, in turn, replied; “Glory to God. Give him praise for his goodness,” and she shouted until her voice gave out.
1617416575539.png

Evening Star., December 31, 1911, page 46.
 
Top