A Union Man in Richmond Personal recollections of the Great Rebellion by a Man on the Inside.
BY A NATIVE VIRGINIAN.
Copyright, 1899, by the Publishers of THE NATIONAL TRIBUNE.
[author continues his narrative discussing his time spent
in Staunton. This was not transcribed.]
Kilpatrick’s raid around Richmond in 1864 created,
seemingly, more consternation in the city than did the seven days’ battles with
McClellan around Richmond. Every bell rung out long and loud. It was understood
that Kilpatrick proposed to liberate the Federal prisoners then confined on
Belle Isle, - some 15,000 in number, - but the Confederates in large numbers,
from Fredericksburg, caused Gen. Kilpatrick to retire without succeeding in his
Capt. Grimes, of Grimes’s battery, accompanied by my
cousin, Capt. John Clarke, called on me just before that event, and the next
morning, Capt. Grimes, with his battery, was sent to oppose the advance of Gen.
Kilpatrick, and was killed by a shell just west of the city. I had known Capt.
Grimes in Portsmouth several years before.
The Pawnee war, so-called, create the greatest excitement
in Richmond. It seems that the Confederates had seized some powder at Norfolk
just before the war, and the report came that the vessel containing the powder,
then on the way to Richmond, was being pursued by the U. S. gunboat Pawnee, with
the purpose of bombarding the city.
Col. Tom August, with all the troops and artillery that he
could muster, marched to Rocketts and took possession, while hundred of people,
armed with pistols, old muskets, and scythe-blades, brought up the rear. I
followed, and on arriving at Rocketts took position upon a large pile of oyster
shells, and looked on at the show.
An old lady who shared my seat upon the oyster shells asked
my opinion as to the situation, and I told her, just for the fun of it, that the
city was just as good as destroyed; that the Pawnee was an awful man-of-war,
and carried about 100 guns that throw shot and shell seven miles; with that she
rolled clear down the pile of shells to the bottom, after which I gracefully
departed, seeing that she was not injured; but just as I departed a mighty cry
arose that the Pawnee was coming.
A vessel of some sort was seen coming around the bend, and
while August and his people sprang to arms, the thing came in full view; - it
was a little tugboat, which was used for towing purposes. The Pawnee war was
[author gives more description of his time in Staunton, and
a vignette on how “Mud Wall” Jackson got his. This was not transcribed.]
After the secession of Virginia an amusing lot of curious
people were developed in Richmond, who afforded so much entertainment that I
hasten to repay by giving them a “notice.” These people were those who had been
Union men and also those who had been nothing - neither fish, flesh, or fowl.
They secured small places with the Confederate Government and heartily approved
of all Confederate acts; abused the sound of Union men, bowed low to officers,
sneezed when Jeff Davis did, took a drink when Judah Benjamin did, hugged and
kissed the Dispatch and Enquirer, etc. And their conduct reminds
me of a story, as Lincoln would have said, as follows: [author gives a story, in
negro dialect, of a slave going to a different church to watch the congregants’
behavior. Not transcribed] I feel that I have penned these “Recollections” with
a view to moderation and propriety, and while I have endeavored to entertain and
amuse at times, I apprehend that I have given but little cause for serious
offense to sensible persons, north or South. I confess that my bitterness would
have been more apparent had I have written soon after the war.
Some three or four months previous to my leaving Richmond
in 1863, for the purpose of making my way through the lines to the North, I took
rooms with a friend on Main street, and went to boarding. The institution was
kept by a most amusing old maid, Miss M-. Now, Miss M- was a charming lady, in
her way, and was perhaps 45 years of age.
I had two rooms with my friend - we will call him George. I
said: “George, where do we get our ‘grub’ to eat?” “Why, bless your soul, I
shall take you at once to Miss M-’s. I get my meals with her, and we get on
finely.” George was a bachelor of 35 years, and was entirely invulnerable to the
charms of women, and regarded them all, especially the unmarried ones, as a
fraudulent deception and a snare. He was a master mechanic, and made from $20 to
$35 per day at his trade, but taking little contracts, repairing
sewing-machines, etc., and he religiously exchanged it every Saturday for gold
at the broker’s nearby. George was a Union man, and he did not care to be seen
buying gold, so he sent a boy who worked with him, to transact the financial
business with the broker, and at that period was paying about nine for one; he
paid more later, however.
Going to the landlady, I was duly introduced by George as
“Prof. D-, Miss M-!”
“Charmed to see you, Professor; George has mentioned the
fact of your coming.” Miss M- calling my friend “George” seemed to augr well,
and we were all happy.
“Pray, what are your charges per week?” I asked in gentle
“Twenty dollars per week,” she replied, and then looking as
if she were going to cry, said: “It is the most trying and distressing time of
my life, just now, having to charge such a price, when formerly I only charged
$5 per week.”
Now, this was my first experience at a regular boarding
house. At dinner, I was with much ceremony introduced to Miss Sophronia
Melville, Mr. Johnson, Mr. Tanglefoot, and last, but not least, to Old Jones. He
was not called Old Jones then, nor was it old Jones’s boarding house just then;
but we shall see later.
Now, old Jones kept a tin and stove store just over the
way, and it was not difficult to note the fact that old Jones and our landlady
were in love. Miss Sophronia was also casting many sheeps’ eyes at Old Jones ,
who was reported to be mighty well off, I tell you! Who was Miss Sophronia? None
could tell with any degree of certainty. Miss M-, our landlady, told y friend
and myself, confidentially that a very pleasant old gentleman had brought her
there and introduced her as his niece, adding that she desired to remain in the
city until he could put his farm in order, which had been damaged during the
progress of the battles around Richmond, and had paid four weeks’ board for his
niece, in advance. That settled the matter. A person whose board is paid four
weeks’ in advance is entitled to superior consideration; that is clear. For
several reasons, I rather suspected Miss Sophronia to be a Confederate spy.
One day not long after this, Miss M- and old Jones got out
of a carriage at the door - they were married. They had quietly gone to a
minister’s and had the knot tied. The whole household was agitated; and Miss
Sophronia immediately left for her “uncle’s.” She had no uncle, though, as one
of our “spotters” - we had “spotters” you must know - and she was, beyond doubt,
a Confederate spy, as I had surmised. The Confederates used these “smart
Sophonias” to pick up news at boarding houses, and “spot” persons speaking
unguardedly for the Union, which was accounted “treason” by the Confederacy.
Thus, our boarding place became old Jones’s boarding house after all. But there
was more trouble ahead for old Jones. The Confederate officers collared him at
his very dinner table and carried him off triumphantly for his bride of a week.
We all really liked old Jones and his wife, and were indignant at the arrest,
but we could do nothing.
Old Jones was allowed to select an arm of the service he
desired, and he selected the cavalry and was sent to Danville; but he was never
in an engagement, as Gen. Lee surrendered before he reached Danville. However,
it was charming to have Madam Old Jones read extracts from old Jones’s letters
from Danville. He told her that he so missed the music of her voice; her
pleasant surroundings; her beefsteaks, and strong, hot coffee. We had never seen
any coffee at the table, by all that’s good. When people, visitors particularly,
would ask Madam Old Jones what arm of the service her husband was attached to,
she would reply with the most delightful complacency, “My husband belongs to the
“calvary,” whereat there would be many exchanges of winks and nudges; but she
never seemed to have the slightest suspicion that the word “calvary,” used in
that connection, had such a queer sound. On these occasions, just before she
left, Miss Sophronia would softly exclaim: “Good Lord!” when “Madam Old Jones”
would ask: ‘Did you ask for anything my dear.”