and iterations of “Hail Columbia,” “Yankee Doodle
,” and “The star-spangled Banner,” in utter disregard of Shakspeare
's dictum averring a natural antagonism between Treason and Melody.
No one on our side seems to have suspected that the Rebel
soldiery were even then stealthily withdrawing from their works in our front, preparatory to hastening after their comrades who had already filed hurriedly and dolefully out of the opposite portals of Richmond
At length, our musicians having played the soldiers to sleep, had themselves sunk also to rest, when, about 2 A. M.,1 Weitzel
, still alert, was startled by the sound of explosions.
They were fewer, nearer, and heavier, than the dull, continuous booming of cannon in the south, which had been audible throughout the previous morning; and they evidently claimed instant attention.
Lt. J. L. Depeyster
, of his staff, having ascended the signal tower, 70 feet high, at headquarters, reported, on his return, that he had seen a great light in the direction of Richmond
, but could not determine whether that city was or was not on fire.
Efforts were now made to capture a Rebel picket; and, about 3 A. M., one was clutched; who, in response to inquiries, said he belonged to the 37th Virginia artillery, but could tell neither where his regiment nor its commander then was. Gen. G. F. Shepley
's chief of staff, at once inferred that the Rebels
were evacuating Richmond
— a conjecture which was verified at 3 1/2, by the report of a deserter; and at 4, a negro drove into our lines in a buggy, who confirmed the statement.
Yet the Rebel
works in front were so intricate, and the ground was known to be so studded with torpedoes, that it was not till after broad daylight that our soldiers went forward — Draper
's Black brigade in advance — over a road strewn with all manner of abandoned munitions and amid a perpetual roar of bursting shells.
But the position of each of the abundant torpedoes planted by the Rebels
was indicated, for their own safety, by a little red flag, which, in the hurry of their departure, they had failed to remove: so there were few, if any, casualties.
The Rebel defenses appeared to have been, while manned, almost impregnable.
Two separate lines of abatis, three lines of rifle-pits and earth works — the first and second connected by regular lines of redans — with a fort or very strong earth-work on every elevation — such were a part of the impediments which had so long kept our soldiers out of Richmond
If one of these lines had been carried, it was completely commanded by that next behind it; so that our loss while holding it must have been ten to one; while to advance and storm the next barrier must, for the moment, have involved still greater prodigality of life.
Yet these works our troops had lain down the previous night expecting to assail at daybreak in the morning.
At 6 A. M., Gen. Weitzel
and staff, having already cleared the exterior defenses, riding rapidly past our still advancing column, entered the immediate suburbs of the burning city, amid a constant roar of exploding shells and falling walls, and were received with shouts of welcome and exultation from thousands of (mainly)