THE EVACUATION - THE CONFLAGRATION - THE
SURRENDER - SCENES.
Though we have twice dwelt upon the subject of the
evacuation of Richmond and the subsequent dreadful conflagration, it is an
exhaustless _____, and so long as we can furnish new facts in connection with
it, we do not fear wearying our readers.
For a month past the Confederates have been evacuating the
city with all the speed and means they could command, but some how the people
refused to believe that removal meant evacuation, and all declared that the
measures were only precautionary. Matters went on in this manner until on
Sunday, the Confederates hurrying away every species of property, the people
blindly refusing to believe that the city was to be given up and clinging to
their Confederate shinplasters as if they were ____ of worth.
Sunday morning General Lee telegraphed to Davis giving an
account of the general attack upon his lines; stating that the lines had been
pierced in many places, and that unless he could re-establish them Richmond must
be given up that night. His tone was, for the first time since the war,
despondent; he said his men were not coming up to their mark.
At 11 o’clock that morning he telegraphed that all
efforts to re-establish his lines had been utterly unsuccessful. Immediately
began among the officials in Richmond a scurry and panic. Still the majority of
the people were in the dark, and, refusing to believe their eyes, so remained,
many of them, till night. The gold and silver coin belonging t the Louisiana
banks, and recently appropriated by the Confederate Congress, was to run down to
the Danville train with hot haste. So also was the specie of the Richmond banks.
Then the programme for the departure of the officials was arranged. A number of
trains were to leave during the evening; still there was not room for all who
thought it desireable to get away. Davis was to depart at 7 o’clock, P. M.
Breckinridge elected to go off on horseback, with the last of the army, on
At the request of the Mayor, a meeting of the Council was
held Sunday evening, at 4 o’clock, to consult as to what was best to be done
under the circumstances. Governor Smith, being invited to attend this meeting,
almost convinced the Council that the Confederate arms had been victorious at
Petersburg, and that Richmond was not to be evacuated. He, however, managed to
become better informed some hours afterwards, and ran off on horseback some time
during the night.
The Council, after much discussion, passed a resolution
appointing committees for each of the three wards, who should, when the fact
that the city was about to be abandoned should be ascertained, proceed to
destroy all the alcoholic liquors in their respective wards, giving the
Council’s receipt for the same, to be paid for hereafter. The object of this
step is obvious - to prevent disorder resulting from the intoxication of the
troops of either army, and of the evil-disposed among the citizens. The order of
the Council was only partially executed, but there is no doubt that much evil
After dark the Council held another conference, and this
time, being assured by the Secretary of War that the Confederate pickets would
be withdrawn from the Richmond front at three o’clock Monday morning, and that
it was calculated that the city would be evacuated about night, it was
determined that a committee of prominent citizens should attend the Mayor with a
flag of truce to the intermediate line of fortifications, and that there he
might hand over the city to the General commanding the Army of the James. Judge
Lyons, Judge Meredith, and several members of the council attended the Mayor.
The letter prepared by the Mayor to be handed to the Union General was as
RICHMOND, Monday April 3d, 1865.
To the General Commanding the United States Army in
front of Richmond:
General: The army of the Confederate Government having
abandoned the city of Richmond, I respectfully request that you will take
possession of it with an organized force, to preserve order ad protect the women
and children and property.
JOSEPH MAYO, Mayor.
This deputation started to the front before daylight.
SCENES IN THE CITY DURING MONDAY NIGHT.
In the meantime a saternalia had begun in the city. About
dark the government commissaries began the destruction of an immense quantity of
whisky and brandy stored in the large building formerly Wallace’s wholesale
grocery store, northwest corner of Pearl and Cary streets. Several hundred
soldiers and citizens gathered in front of the building, ad contrived to save
much of thee liquor in pitchers, bottles and basins. This liquor was not slow in
manifesting itself. The crowd became a mob, and began to howl. Soon other crowds
had collected in front of other government warehouses. At some, attempts were
made to distribute supplies, but so frenzied had the mob become that the
officers in charge in many cases had to flee for their lives.
All through the night crowds of men, women and children
traversed the streets, rushing from one store-house to another, loading
themselves with all kinds of supplies, to be thrown away immediately on
something more tempting offering itself. Men could be met rolling hogsheads of
bacon, molasses, sugar, barrels of liquor, bushels of tea and coffee; others had
wheelbarrows loaded with all manner of goods, while others again had gone into
the plundering business in a large way, and were operating with bags, furniture
wagons and drays. This work went on fast and furious until after midnight, about
which time large numbers of straggling Confederate soldiers made their
appearance on the streets, and immediately set about robbing the principal
stores n Main street. The scenes that then followed have already been described.
There was a regular sack.
THE ORDER TO FIRE THE CITY.
About 1 o’clock Monday morning the Mayor received
positive information that an order had been issued from Ewell’s headquarters
to fire the four principal tobacco warehouses of the city, namely: Public
Warehouse, situated at the head of the basin, near the Petersburg Railroad
depot; Shockoe Warehouse, situated near the centre of the city, side by side
with the far-famed Gallego flour mills; Mayo’s Warehouse, at the southern
extremity of 14th street, and on the hither end of Mayo’s bridge;
and Dibrell’s Warehouse, on Cary street, between 21st and 22d
streets, and a square lot below the Libby prison. Knowing that the burning of
these immense buildings, situated as they were, involved the destruction of at
least the business portion of the city, the Mayor forthwith dispatched a
committee of gentlemen to remonstrate wit the Confederate authorities against
the execution of such wanton vandalism. The committee, consisting of Mr. James
A. Scott and others, were referred to Major Melton, one of a large number of
Adjutant and Inspector -Generals who hung around the War Department, to whom, it
appeared, had been entrusted the work of the incendiary. Melton would hear
nothing on the subject, and characterized the statement that burning the
warehouses would destroy the city as “a cowardly pretext on the part of the
citizens, trumped up to endeavor to save their property for the Yankees.”
There was nothing left for the citizens to do but to submit. Resistance was
thought of, but the Confederate authorities had guarded against such an event by
holding in the city, to execute their barbarous work, two large battalions of
Southern troops, every man of whom hated Virginia and Virginians, and longed for
nothing more than to see the last house in the city a ruin.
FLIGHT OF THE CONFEDERATES.
Two divisions - Kershaw’s and Custis Lee’s - with
several light batteries, were holding the lines below the city. Gradually during
the night these troops were withdrawn by brigades. The first movements were
orderly enough, but towards morning the retreat became a wild flight. It was one
of the ghastliest sights of this awful night to see long lines of men, flitting
like unholy shades through the crowded streets, their forms made hideous by the
glare of the incendiary fires that already began to glow. This train of
fugitives marched on unbroken up Main street, down 14th street, until
broad daylight broke up the scene. ___ ____ ___ last passed over the bridge ____
already ____ _____ _____ _____ than an hour.
THE CITY FIRED.
The troops detailed to fire the warehouses bivouac around
the doomed buildings, ready at a moment’s notice to begin their work of evil.
But before they received their order, some amateur incendiary fired a canal boat
loaded with meat, which was lying in the Dock near Mayo’s bridge. This was the
first fire in the city, if we except the conflagration in the streets of all the
papers, documents, &c., of the First and Second Auditors’ offices, which
took place on 9th street early Sunday night. The boat we have just mentioned
fired two others, which swung under the bridge over the Dock and set in on fire,
thereby nearly cutting off the retreat of five or six thousand Confederates. -
About this time the Confederate gunboat Patrick Henry, lying in the river off
Rocketts, was fired, and so after the order was issued to apply the torch to the
warehouses. The order was executed with alacrity; nor did the ruffians confine
themselves to the buildings in question. Getting a taste of incendiarism, the
congenial work seemed to please them so much that they ran about setting fire to
every house in the vicinity of the different warehouses. The incendiaries at
Shockoe fired every house on Shockoe Slip, including Mr. De Voss’ warehouse,
where was stored a quantity of French tobacco. - There was a guard of French
troops over this building, but they were driven off by the Confederates and
threatened with death if they attempted to extinguish the flames. The torch was
also applied to all the buildings recently in Confederate occupation, from the
Tredegar works on the canal above the city to the navy yard at Rocketts - a
distance of two miles - including the laboratories, artillery shops, arsenals,
Franklin paper mill, Petersburg depot, all the Commissary and Quartermaster
buildings on and near 14th street, Rahm’s foundry, and other
buildings and localities which we have heretofore mentioned. - By seven
o’clock A. M. nearly the whole of the city south of Main street, between 8th
and 15th streets and 20th and 23d streets was one great
sea of flame.
It was part of the programme that Gary’s cavalry should
be the last Confederate troops to leave the lines below Richmond. They were to
come stealthily on the city about daylight and catch up all stragglers and
citizens that they could lay hold of and hurry them off with the army. This part
of the plan was frustrated by the rapid advance of the Union forces. Gary passed
up Main street not five minutes ahead of the Union column, and so far from
dragging off others, be barely saved himself. - Mayo’s bridge and the Danville
depot were then all a blaze. Gary crossed the dock by the bridge at the southern
terminus of 17th street, and then set fire to the structure. Two
citizens, William J. Brown and Robert Allen, chancing to be in the neighborhood,
rushed to the bridge and extinguished the flames before they had gained headway.
While so engaged, they were fired upon by Gary’s men, but fortunately, neither
of them were struck. - Gary then sped away over Mayo’s bridge, which was
burning from end to end, and almost on the point of falling in.
THE MAYOR SURRENDERS THE CITY.
The flag-of-truce party attending the Mayor met the Union
military authorities at the line of fortifications just beyond Tree Hill, near
the junction of the Osborne turnpike and Newmarket road. The surrender was
formally made, and steps were immediately taken to preserve order in the city,
and it would have been done effectually but for the progress of the great fire
then raging, which prevented anything being done until it could be gotten under.
The populace, white and black, wild with excitement, were sacking every store on
Main street. - The United States authorities at once set abut staying the
ravages of the flames, and threw out parties to put a stop to the pillaging. By
3 o’clock, P. M., the fire was conquered, though not extinguished, and order
In previous notices of the conflagration we have mentioned
that a large number of persons were burned to death; their number or identity
will never be known. Children, old and infirm persons, and many persons under
the influence of the liquor drank during the previous night’s orgies, were the
We have heard of no one being killed by the shell
explosions at the Arsenal, but that hundreds were not slaughtered can only be
accounted for by the fact that the Arsenal was under a steep hill which stood
between it and the city on two sides. Messrs. Wm. Royster and A. Judson Crane
were struck and knocked down by a fragment of shell while standing in Mr.
Royster’s porch, corner of 4th and Cary streets. Mr. Royster was
severely injured about the abdomen. Mr. Crane received a contusion in the
temple. A colored child, about seven years old, was knocked down on Mr.
Crane’s lot on Canal street, between 4th and 5th. There
must have been many casualties and perhaps some deaths from this bombardment
which we have not heard of. Not less than one hundred thousand shells exploded
in the course of three or four hours, scattering their fragments thickly over
acres of the city. Many pieces, weighing several pounds each, fell in the
__ the ways of Providence are inscrutable. This firing of
our goodly city would seem at first glance an unmitigated evil. But there is
another view to be taken of it. It has had one certain good effect. If there
lingered in the hearts of any of our people one spark of affection for the Davis
dynasty, this ruthless, useless, wanton handing over to the flames their fair
city, their homes and altars has extinguished it forever.