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Chapter 53:

  • General Lee Advises the evacuation of Richmond
  • -- withdrawal of the troops -- the naval force -- the conflagration in Richmond -- telegram of Lee to the President -- the evacuation complete -- the charge of the removal of supplies intended for Lee's army -- the facts -- arrangements with General Lee -- proclamation -- reports of scouts.


When, on the morning of April 2d, the main line of the defenses of Petersburg was broken, and our forces driven back to the inner and last line, General Lee sent the telegram, to which reference has been already made, and advised that Richmond should be evacuated simultaneously with the withdrawal of his troops that night. This left little time for preparation, especially in the matter of providing transportation for the troops holding the eastern defenses of Richmond. To supply the cavalry, artillery, and army wagons with horses had so exhausted the stock of Virginia as to leave the quartermaster's department little ability to supplement the small transportation possessed, or required by troops regarded as a stationary defense. The consequence was, that their withdrawal had to be made under circumstances which involved unusual embarrassments upon the march; soldiers, sailors, and citizens, constituting the ‘reserves,’ vied with each other in the performance of the hard duty to which they were called—a night march over unknown roads, to join a retreating army, pursued by a powerful enemy having large bodies of cavalry. The opposing lines of entrenchment north of the James were so near to each other that our forces could only withdraw when it was too dark for observation; this required that the movement should be postponed until the moon went down, which was at a late hour of the night.

The circumstances attending the withdrawal of Ewell's corps were such as to make its safety the subject of special solicitude. It was small in comparison to that retiring from Petersburg, had a greater distance to march before a junction could be made with the main body, and most of the men were unused to marching. From reports received long after the event, I am able to give the principal occurrences of their campaign.

General G. W. C. Lee moved his division from Chapin's Bluff across the James River, on the Wilton Bridge; the wagons having been loaded under the preparatory order, were sent up in the afternoon to cross at Richmond, and the division moved on to a short distance beyond Tomahawk Church, where it encamped on the night of the 3d. General

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