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[552]

Stray leaves from a soldier's Journal.

By W. S. White, Third Company Richmond Howitzers.

Fall of Richmond.

'Twas the Sabbath morning on the 2d of April, 1865, and all was quiet along our lines. My battalion had been relieved from the front and was stationed a mile or so back in the rear of our main lines, on the north side of the James River. At the usual hour for divine services quite a goodly collection of men had assembled in the Third Howitzers and a feeling discourse was preached to them by our chaplain, Rev. Henry M. White, than whom there is no chaplain more popular in our army. How quiet and peaceful everything seemed, and yet, farther on, away off to the right, across the James River, scenes were transpiring that would shake from center to circumference our now hopeless Confederacy.

Little did the pastor or the people think then that it was the last sermon to the First Virginia Artillery!

The calm peacefulness of that Sabbath morning meeting, hanging as it were over the very volcano of destruction, made a vivid impression on my mind no circumstance can efface.

A short time afterward orders came for us to ‘prepare to move to the front’—this was considered only a precautionary order, and we thought but little of it. Many of our boys had gone into the city, as it was only a few miles off, and early in the afternoon one of them returned in breathless haste and bearing strange tidings. Says he: ‘Richmond is wild with excitement. General Lee has met with a heavy reverse on our right, and Richmond will be evacuated in less than twenty-four hours.’

At first we paid but little attention to this information, considered by us as nothing more than a Sunday rumor; but others soon began to come in, and all bore the same sad tidings. How like a thunder-bolt it came! and we—oh, how unprepared for the result! In solemn groups of five and ten the men collected, discussing the probable result of such a move as the forced evacuation of our metropolis. Sorrow was depicted upon every countenance, but also there was the stern determination to follow the flag of our noble Lee so long as it waved, and fall, if fall we must, under the blood-stained banner of the Army of Northern Virginia.

Noble banner! so oft triumphant and so deeply dyed with the

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Robert E. Lee (2)
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