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Chapter 35.

  • Depreciation of Confederate currency
  • -- rigor of conscription -- dissatisfaction with the Confederate government -- Lee General-in -- chief -- J. E. Johnston Reappointed to oppose Sherman's March -- value of slave property gone in Richmond -- Davis's recommendation of emancipation -- Benjamin's last despatch to Slidell -- condition of the army when Lee took command -- Lee attempts negotiations with Grant -- Lincoln's directions -- Lee and Davis agree upon line of retreat -- assault on Fort Stedman -- five Forks -- evacuation of Petersburg -- surrender of Richmond -- pursuit of Lee -- surrender of Lee -- burning of Richmond -- Lincoln in Richmond
    From the hour of Mr. Lincoln's reelection the Confederate cause was doomed. The cheering of the troops which greeted the news from the North was heard within the lines at Richmond and at Petersburg; and although the leaders maintained their attitude of defiance, the impression rapidly gained ground among the people that the end was not far off. The stimulus of hope being gone, they began to feel the pinch of increasing want. Their currency had become almost worthless. In October, a dollar in gold was worth thirty-five dollars in Confederate money. With the opening of the new year the price rose to sixty dollars, and, despite the efforts of the Confederate treasury, which would occasionally rush into the market and beat down the price of gold ten or twenty per cent. a day, the currency gradually depreciated until a hundred [500] for one was offered and not taken. It was natural for the citizens of Richmond to think that monstrous prices were being extorted for food, clothing, and supplies, when in fact they'were paying no more than was reasonable. To pay a thousand dollars for a barrel of flour was enough to strike a householder with terror, but ten dollars is not a famine price. High prices, however, even if paid in dry leaves, are a hardship when dry leaves are not plentiful; and there was scarcity even of Confederate money in the South.

    At every advance of Grant's lines a new alarm was manifested in Richmond, the first proof of which was always a fresh rigor in enforcing the conscription laws and the arbitrary orders of the frightened authorities. After the capture of Fort Harrison, north of the James, squads of guards were sent into the streets with directions to arrest every able-bodied man they met. It is said that the medical boards were ordered to exempt no one capable of bearing arms for ten days. Human nature will not endure such a strain as this, and desertion grew too common to punish.

    As disaster increased, the Confederate government steadily lost ground in the confidence and respect of the Southern people. Mr. Davis and his councilors were doing their best, but they no longer got any credit for it. From every part of the Confederacy came complaints of what was done, demands for what was impossible to do. Some of the States were in a condition near to counter-revolution. A slow paralysis was benumbing the limbs of the insurrection, and even at the heart its vitality was plainly declining. The Confederate Congress, which had hitherto been the mere register of the President's will, now turned upon him. On January 19 it passed a resolution making Lee general-in-chief of the army. This Mr. Davis might have [501] borne with patience, although it was intended as a notification that his meddling with military affairs must come to an end. But far worse was the bitter necessity put upon him as a sequel to this act, of reappointing General Joseph E. Johnston to the command of the army which was to resist Sherman's victorious march to the north. Mr. Seddon, rebel Secretary of War, thinking his honor impugned by a vote of the Virginia delegation in Congress, resigned. Warnings of serious demoralization came daily from the army, and disaffection was so rife in official circles in Richmond that it was not thought politic to call public attention to it by measures of repression.

    It is curious and instructive to note how the act of emancipation had by this time virtually enforced itself in Richmond. The value of slave property was gone. It is true that a slave was still occasionally sold, at a price less than one tenth of what he would have brought before the war, but servants could be hired of their nominal owners for almost nothing-merely enough to keep up a show of vassalage. In effect, any one could hire a negro for his keeping — which was all that anybody in Richmond, black or white, got for his work. Even Mr. Davis had at last become — docile to the stern teaching of events. In his message of November he had recommended the employment of forty thousand slaves in the army — not as soldiers, it is true, save in the last extremity — with emancipation to come.

    On December 27, Mr. Benjamin wrote his last important instruction to John Slidell, the Confederate commissioner in Europe. It is nothing less than a cry of despair. Complaining bitterly of the attitude of foreign nations while the South is fighting the battles of England and France against the North, he asks: “Are they determined never to recognize the Southern Confederacy [502] until the United States assent to such action on their part?” And with a frantic offer to submit to any terms which Europe might impose as the price of recognition, and a scarcely veiled threat of making peace with the North unless Europe should act speedily, the Confederate Department of State closed its four years of fruitless activity.

    Lee assumed command of all the Confederate armies on February 9. His situation was one of unprecedented gloom. The day before he had reported that his troops, who had been in line of battle for two days at Hatcher's Run, exposed to the bad winter weather, had been without meat for three days. A prodigious effort was made, and the danger of starvation for the moment averted, but no permanent improvement resulted. The armies of the Union were closing in from every point of the compass. Grant was every day pushing his formidable left wing nearer the only roads by which Lee could escape; Thomas was threatening the Confederate communications from Tennessee; Sheridan was riding for the last time up the Shenandoah valley to abolish Early; while from the south the redoubtable columns of Sherman were moving northward with the steady pace and irresistible progress of a tragic fate.

    A singular and significant attempt at negotiation was made at this time by General Lee. He was so strong in the confidence of the people of the South, and the government at Richmond was so rapidly becoming discredited, that he could doubtless have obtained the popular support and compelled the assent of the Executive to any measures he thought proper for the attainment of peace. From this it was easy for him and for others to come to the wholly erroneous conclusion that General Grant held a similar relation to the government and people of the United [503] States. General Lee seized upon the pretext of a conversation reported to him by General Longstreet as having been held with General E. O. C. Ord under an ordinary flag of truce for the exchange of prisoners, to address a letter to Grant, sanctioned by Mr. Davis, saying he had been informed that General Ord had said General Grant would not decline an interview with a view “to a satisfactory adjustment of the present unhappy difficulties by means of a military convention,” provided Lee had authority to act. He therefore proposed to meet General Grant “with the hope that . . . it may be found practicable to submit the subjects of controversy . . . to a convention of the kind mentioned” ; professing himself “authorized to do whatever the result of the proposed interview may render necessary.”

    Grant at once telegraphed these overtures to Washington. Stanton received the despatch at the Capitol, where the President was, according to his custom, passing the last night of the session of Congress, for the convenience of signing bills. The Secretary handed the telegram to Mr. Lincoln, who read it in silence. He asked no advice or suggestion from any one about him, but, taking up a pen, wrote with his usual slowness and precision a despatch in Stanton's name, which he showed to Seward, and then handed to Stanton to be signed and sent. The language is that of an experienced ruler, perfectly sure of himself and of his duty:

    The President directs me to say that he wishes you to have no conference with General Lee, unless it be for capitulation of General Lee's army, or on some minor or purely military matter. He instructs me to say that you are not to decide, discuss, or confer upon any political questions. Such questions the President [504] holds in his own hands, and will submit them to no military conferences or conventions. Meanwhile, you are to press to the utmost your military advantages.

    Grant answered Lee that he had no authority to accede to his proposition, and explained that General Ord's language must have been misunderstood. This closed to the Confederate authorities the last avenue of hope of any compromise by which the alternative of utter defeat or unconditional surrender might be avoided.

    Early in March, General Lee visited Richmond for conference with Mr. Davis on the measures to be adopted in the crisis which he saw was imminent. He had never sympathized with the slight Congress had intended to put upon Mr. Davis when it gave him supreme military authority, and continued to the end to treat his President as commander-in-chief of the forces. There is direct contradiction between Mr. Davis and General Lee as to how Davis received this statement of the necessities of the situation. Mr. Davis says he suggested immediate withdrawal from Richmond, but that Lee said his horses were too weak for the roads in their present condition, and that he must wait. General Lee, on the other hand, is quoted as saying that he wished to retire behind the Staunton River, from which point he might have indefinitely protracted the war, but that the President overruled him. Both agreed, however, that sooner or later Richmond must be abandoned, and that the next move should be to Danville.

    But before he turned his back forever upon the lines he had so stoutly defended, Lee resolved to dash once more at the toils by which he was surrounded. He placed half his army under the command of General John B. Gordon, with orders to break through [505] the Union lines at Fort Stedman and take possession of the high ground behind them. A. month earlier Grant had foreseen some such move on Lee's part, and had ordered General Parke to be prepared to meet an assault on his center, and to have his commanders ready to bring all their resources to bear on the point in danger, adding: “With proper alacrity in this respect, I would have no objection to seeing the enemy get through.” This characteristic phrase throws the strongest light both on Grant's temperament, and on the mastery of his business at which he had arrived. Under such generalship, an army's lines are a trap into which entrance is suicide.

    The assault was made with great spirit at half-past 4 on the morning of March 25. Its initial success was due to a singular cause. The spot chosen was a favorite point for deserters to pass into the Union lines, which they had of late been doing in large numbers. When Gordon's skirmishers, therefore, came stealing through the darkness, they were mistaken for an unusually large party of deserters, and they overpowered several picket-posts without firing a shot. The storming party, following at once, took the trenches with a rush, and in a few minutes had possession of the main line on the right of the fort, and, next, of the fort itself. It was hard in the semi-darkness to distinguish friends from foes, and for a time General Parke was unable to make headway; but with the growing light his troops advanced from every direction to mend the breach, and, making short work of the Confederate detachments, recaptured the fort, opening a cross-fire of artillery so withering that few of the Confederates could get back to their own lines. This was, moreover, not the only damage the Confederates suffered. Humphreys and Wright, on the Union left, rightly assuming [506] that Parke could take care of himself, instantly searched the lines in their front to see if they had been essentially weakened to support Gordon's attack. They found they had not, but in gaining this knowledge captured the enemy's intrenched picket-lines in front of them, which, being held, gave inestimable advantage to the Union army in the struggle of the next week.

    Grant's chief anxiety for some time had been lest Lee should abandon his lines; but though burning to attack, he was delayed by the same bad roads which kept Lee in Richmond, and by another cause. He did not wish to move until Sheridan had completed the work assigned him in the Shenandoah valley and joined either Sherman or the army at Petersburg. On March 24, however, at the very moment Gordon was making his plans for next day's sortie, Grant issued his order for the great movement to the left which was to finish the war. He intended to begin on the twenty-ninth, but Lee's desperate dash of the twenty-fifth convinced him that not a moment was to be lost. Sheridan reached City Point on the twenty-sixth. Sherman came up from North Carolina for a brief visit next day. The President was also there, and an interesting meeting took place between these famous brothers in arms and Mr. Lincoln; after which Sherman went back to Goldsboro, and Grant began pushing his army to the left with even more than his usual iron energy.

    It was a great army — the result of all the power and wisdom of the government, all the devotion of the people, all. the intelligence and teachableness of the soldiers themselves, and all the ability which a mighty war had developed in the officers. In command of all was Grant, the most extraordinary military temperament this country has ever seen. The numbers of the [507] respective armies in this last grapple have been the occasion of endless controversy. As nearly as can be ascertained, the grand total of all arms on the Union side was 124,700; on the Confederate side, 57,000.

    Grant's plan, as announced in his instructions of March 24, was at first to despatch Sheridan to destroy the South Side and Danville railroads, at the same time moving a heavy force to the left to insure the success of this raid, and then to turn Lee's position. But his purpose developed from hour to hour, and before he had been away from his winter headquarters one day, he gave up this comparatively narrow scheme, and adopted the far bolder plan which he carried out to his immortal honor. He ordered Sheridan not to go after the railroads, but to push for the enemy's right rear, writing him: “I now feel like ending the matter. . . . We will act all together as one army here, until it is seen what can be done with the enemy.”

    On the thirtieth, Sheridan advanced to Five Forks, where he found a heavy force of the enemy. Lee, justly alarmed by Grant's movements, had despatched a sufficient detachment to hold that important crossroads, and taken personal command of the remainder on White Oak Ridge. A heavy rain-storm, beginning on the night of the twenty-ninth and continuing more than twenty-four hours, greatly impeded the march of the troops. On the thirty-first, Warren, working his way toward the White Oak road, was attacked by Lee and driven back on the main line, but rallied, and in the afternoon drove the enemy again into his works. Sheridan, opposed by Pickett with a large force of infantry and cavalry, was also forced back, fighting obstinately, as far as Dinwiddie Court House, from which point he hopefully reported his situation to Grant at dark. Grant, more disturbed than Sheridan himself, [508] rained orders and suggestions all night to effect a concentration at daylight on that portion of the enemy in front of Sheridan; but Pickett, finding himself out of position, silently withdrew during the night, and resumed his strongly intrenched post at Five Forks. Here Sheridan followed him on April I, and repeated the successful tactics of his Shenandoah valley exploits so brilliantly that Lee's right was entirely shattered.

    This battle of Five Forks should have ended the war. Lee's right was routed; his line had been stretched westward until it broke; there was no longer any hope of saving Richmond, or even of materially delaying its fall. But Lee apparently thought that even the gain of a day was of value to the Richmond government, and what was left of his Army of Northern Virginia was still so perfect in discipline that it answered with unabated spirit every demand made upon it. Grant, who feared Lee might get away from Petersburg and overwhelm Sheridan on the White Oak road, directed that an assault be made all along the line at four o'clock on the morning of the second. His officers responded with enthusiasm; and Lee, far from dreaming of attacking any one after the stunning blow he had received the day before, made what hasty preparations he could to resist them.

    It is painful to record.the hard fighting which followed. Wright, in his assault in front of Forts Fisher and Walsh, lost eleven hundred men in fifteen minutes of murderous conflict that made them his own; and other commands fared scarcely better, Union and Confederate troops alike displaying a gallantry distressing to contemplate when one reflects that, the war being already decided, all this heroic blood was shed in vain. The Confederates, from the Appomattox to the Weldon road, fell slowly back to their inner line of [509] works; and Lee, watching the formidable advance before which his weakened troops gave way, sent a message to Richmond announcing his purpose of concentrating on the Danville road, and made preparations for the evacuation which was now the only resort left him.

    Some Confederate writers express surprise that General Grant did not attack and destroy Lee's army on April 2; but this is a view, after the fact, easy to express. The troops on the Union left had been on foot for eighteen hours, had fought an important battle, marched and countermarched many miles, and were now confronted by Longstreet's fresh corps behind formidable works, while the attitude of the force under Gordon on the south side of the town was such as to require the close attention of Parke. Grant, anticipating an early retirement of Lee from his citadel, wisely resolved to avoid the waste and bloodshed of an immediate assault on the inner lines of Petersburg. He ordered Sheridan to get upon Lee's line of retreat; sent Humphreys to strengthen him; then, directing a general bombardment for five o'clock next morning, and an assault at six, gave himself and his soldiers a little of the rest they had so richly earned and so seriously needed.

    He had telegraphed during the day to President Lincoln, who was still at City Point, the news as it developed from hour to hour. Prisoners he regarded as so much net gain: he was weary of slaughter, and wanted the war ended with as little bloodshed as possible; and it was with delight that he summed up on Sunday afternoon: “The whole captures since the army started out gunning will not amount to less than twelve thousand men, and probably fifty pieces of artillery.”

    Lee bent all his energies to saving his army and leading it out of its untenable position on the James to a [510] point from which he could effect a junction with Johnston in North Carolina. The place selected for this purpose was Burkeville, at the crossing of the South Side and Danville roads, fifty miles southwest from Richmond, whence a short distance would bring him to Danville, where the desired junction could be made. Even yet he was able to cradle himself in the illusion that it was only a campaign that had failed, and that he might continue the war indefinitely in another field. At nightfall all his preparations were completed, and dismounting at the mouth of the road leading to Amelia Court House, the first point of rendezvous, where he had directed supplies to be sent, he watched his troops file noiselessly by in the darkness. By three o'clock the town was abandoned; at half-past 4 it was formally surrendered. Meade, reporting the news to Grant, received orders to march his army immediately up the Appomattox; and divining Lee's intentions, Grant also sent word to Sheridan to push with all speed to the Danville road.

    Thus flight and pursuit began almost at the same moment. The swift-footed Army of Northern Virginia was racing for its life, and Grant, inspired with more than his habitual tenacity and energy, not only pressed his enemy in the rear, but hung upon his flank, and strained every nerve to get in his front. He did not even allow himself the pleasure of entering Richmond, which surrendered to Weitzel early on the morning of the third.

    All that day Lee pushed forward toward Amelia Court House. There was little fighting except among the cavalry. A terrible disappointment awaited Lee on his arrival at Amelia Court House on the fourth. He had ordered supplies to be forwarded there, but his half-starved troops found no food awaiting them, [511] and nearly twenty-four hours were lost in collecting subsistence for men and horses. When he started again on the night of the fifth, the whole pursuing force was south and stretching out to the west of him. Burkeville was in-Grant's possession; the way to Danville was barred; the supply of provisions to the south cut off. He was compelled to change his route to the west, and started for Lynchburg, which he was destined never to reach.

    It had been the intention to attack Lee at Amelia Court House on the morning of April 6, but learning of his turn to the west, Meade, who was immediately in pursuit, quickly faced his army about and followed. A running fight ensued, for fourteen miles, the enemy, with remarkable quickness and dexterity, halting and partly intrenching themselves from time to time, and the national forces driving them out of every position; the Union cavalry, meanwhile, harassing the moving left flank of the Confederates, and working havoc on the trains. They also caused a grievous loss to history by burning Lee's headquarters baggage, with all its wealth of returns and reports. At Sailor's Creek, a rivulet running north into the Appomattox, Ewell's corps was brought to bay, and important fighting occurred; the day's loss to Lee, there and elsewhere, amounting to eight thousand in all, with several of his generals among the prisoners. This day's work was of incalculable value to the national arms. Sheridan's unerring eye appreciated the full importance of it, his hasty report ending with the words: “If the thing is pressed, I think that Lee will surrender.” Grant sent the despatch to President Lincoln, who instantly replied:

    Let the thing be pressed.

    In fact, after nightfall of the sixth, Lee's army [512] could only flutter like a wounded bird with one wing shattered. There was no longer any possibility of escape; but Lee found it hard to relinquish the illusion of years, and as soon as night came down he again began his weary march westward. A slight success on the next day once more raised his hopes; but his optimism was not shared by his subordinates, and a number of his principal officers, selecting General Pendleton as their spokesman, made known to him on the seventh their belief that further resistance was useless, and advised surrender. Lee told them that they had yet too many men to think of laying down their arms, but in answer to a courteous summons from Grant sent that same day, inquired what terms he would be willing to offer. Without waiting for a reply, he again put his men in motion, and during all of the eighth the chase and pursuit continued through a part of Virginia green with spring, and until then unvisited by hostile armies.

    Sheridan, by unheard — of exertions, at last accomplished the important task of placing himself squarely on Lee's line of retreat. About sunset of the eighth, his advance captured Appomattox Station and four trains of provisions. Shortly after, a reconnaissance revealed the fact that Lee's entire army was coming up the road. Though he had nothing but cavalry, Sheridan resolved to hold the inestimable advantage he had gained, and sent a request to Grant to hurry up the required infantry support; saying that if it reached him that night, they “might perhaps finish the job in the morning.” He added, with singular prescience, referring to the negotiations which had been opened: “I do not think Lee means to surrender until compelled to do so.”

    This was strictly true. When Grant replied to Lee's question about terms, saying that the only condition [513] he insisted upon was that the officers and men surrendered should be disqualified from taking up arms again until properly exchanged, Lee disclaimed any intention to surrender his army, but proposed to meet Grant to discuss the restoration of peace. It appears from his own report that even on the night of the eighth he had no intention of giving up the fight. He expected to find only cavalry before him next morning, and thought his remnant of infantry could break through while he himself was amusing Grant with platonic discussions in the rear. But on arriving at the rendezvous he had suggested, he received Grant's courteous but decided refusal to enter into a political negotiation, and also the news that a formidable force of infantry barred the way and covered the adjacent hills and valley. The marching of the Confederate army was over forever, and Lee, suddenly brought to a sense of his real situation, sent orders to cease hostilities, and wrote another note to Grant, asking an interview for the purpose of surrendering his army.

    The meeting took place at the house of Wilmer McLean, in the edge of the village of Appomattox, on April 9, 1865. Lee met Grant at the threshold, and ushered him into a small and barely furnished parlor, where were soon assembled the leading officers of the national army. General Lee was accompanied only by his secretary, Colonel Charles Marshall. A short conversation led up to a request from Lee for the terms on which the surrender of his army would be received. Grant briefly stated them, and then wrote them out. Men and officers were to be paroled, and the arms, artillery, and public property turned over to the officer appointed to receive them.

    “This,” he added, “will not embrace the side-arms of the officers, nor their private horses or baggage. [514] This done, each officer and man will be allowed to return to their homes, not to be disturbed by United States authority so long as they observe their parole and the laws in force where they may reside.”

    General Grant says in his “Memoirs” that up to the moment when he put pen to paper he had not thought of a word that he should write. The terms he had verbally proposed were soon put in writing, and there he might have stopped. But as he wrote a feeling of sympathy for his gallant antagonist came over him, and he added the extremely liberal terms with which his letter closed. The sight of Lee's fine sword suggested the paragraph allowing officers to retain their sidearms; and he ended with a phrase he evidently had not thought of, and for which he had no authority, which practically pardoned and amnestied every man in Lee's army — a thing he had refused to consider the day before, and which had been expressly forbidden him in the President's order of March 3. Yet so great was the joy over the crowning victory, and so deep the gratitude of the government and people to Grant and his heroic army, that his terms were accepted as he wrote them, and his exercise of the Executive prerogative of pardon entirely overlooked. It must be noticed here, however, that a few days later it led the greatest of Grant's generals into a serious error.

    Lee must have read the memorandum with as much surprise as gratification. He suggested and gained another important concession — that those of the cavalry and artillery who owned their own horses should be allowed to take them home to put in their crops; and wrote a brief reply accepting the terms. He then remarked that his army was in a starving condition, and asked Grant to provide them with subsistence and forage; to which he at once assented, inquiring for [515] how many men the rations would be wanted. Lee answered, “About twenty-five thousand” ; and orders were given to issue them. The number turned out to be even greater, the paroles signed amounting to twenty-eight thousand two hundred and thirty-one. If we add to this the captures made during the preceding week, and the thousands who deserted the failing cause at every by-road leading to their homes, we see how considerable an Army Lee commanded when Grant “started out gunning.”

    With these brief and simple formalities, one of the most momentous transactions of modern times was concluded. The Union gunners prepared to fire a national salute, but Grant forbade any rejoicing over a fallen enemy, who, he hoped, would be an enemy no longer. The next day he rode to the Confederate lines to make a visit of farewell to General Lee. They parted with courteous good wishes, and Grant, without pausing to look at the city he had taken, or the enormous system of works which had so long held him at bay, hurried away to Washington, intent only upon putting an end to the waste and burden of war.

    A very carnival of fire and destruction had attended the flight of the Confederate authorities from Richmond. On Sunday night, April 2, Jefferson Davis, with his cabinet and their more important papers, hurriedly left the doomed city on one of the crowded and overloaded railroad trains. The legislature of Virginia and the governor of the State departed in a canal-boat toward Lynchburg; and every available vehicle was pressed into service by the frantic inhabitants, all anxious to get away before their capital was desecrated by the presence of “Yankee invaders.” By the time the military left, early next morning, a conflagration was already under way. The rebel Congress [516] had passed a law ordering government tobacco and other public property to be burned. General Ewell, the military commander, asserts that he took the responsibility of disobeying the law, and that they were not fired by his orders. However that may be, flames broke out in various parts of the city, while a miscellaneous mob, inflamed by excitement and by the alcohol which had run freely in the gutters the night before, rushed from store to store, smashing in the doors and indulging all the wantonness of pillage and greed. Public spirit was paralyzed, and the whole fabric of society seemed crumbling to pieces, when the convicts from the penitentiary, a shouting, leaping crowd of party-colored demons, overcoming their guard, and drunk with liberty, appeared upon the streets, adding their final dramatic horror to the pandemonium.

    It is quite probable that the very magnitude and rapidity of the disaster served in a measure to mitigate its evil results. The burning of seven hundred buildings, comprising the entire business portion of Richmond, warehouses, manufactories, mills, depots, and stores, all within the brief space of a day, was a visitation so sudden, so unexpected, so stupefying, as to overawe and terrorize even wrong-doers, and made the harvest of plunder so abundant as to serve to scatter the mob and satisfy its rapacity to quick repletion.

    Before a new hunger could arise, assistance was at hand. General Weitzel, to whom the city was surrendered, taking up his headquarters in the house lately occupied by Jefferson Davis, promptly set about the work of relief; organizing efficient resistance to the fire, which, up to this time, seems scarcely to have been attempted; issuing rations to the poor, who had been relentlessly exposed to starvation by the action of the rebel Congress; and restoring order and personal [517] authority. That a regiment of black soldiers assisted in this noble work must have seemed to the white inhabitants of Richmond the final drop in their cup of misery.

    Into the capital, thus stricken and laid waste, came President Lincoln on the morning of April 4. Never in the history of the world did the head of a mighty nation and the conqueror of a great rebellion enter the captured chief city of the insurgents in such humbleness and simplicity. He had gone two weeks before to City Point for a visit to General Grant, and to his son, Captain Robert Lincoln, who was serving on Grant's staff. Making his home on the steamer which brought him, and enjoying what was probably the most satisfactory relaxation in which he had been able to indulge during his whole presidential service, he had visited the various camps of the great army in company with the general, cheered everywhere by the loving greetings of the soldiers. He had met Sherman when that commander hurried up fresh from his victorious march, and after Grant started on his final pursuit of Lee the President still lingered; and it was at City Point that he received the news of the fall of Richmond.

    Between the receipt of this news and the following forenoon, but before any information of the great fire had reached them, a visit was arranged for the President and Rear-Admiral Porter. Ample precautions were taken at the start. The President went in his own steamer, the River Queen, with her escort, the Bat, and a tug used at City Point in landing from the steamer. Admiral Porter went in his flag-ship, the Malvern, and a transport carried a small cavalry escort and ambulances for the party. But the obstructions in the river soon made it impossible to proceed in this fashion. [518] One unforeseen accident after another rendered it necessary to leave behind even the smaller boats, until finally the party went on in Admiral Porter's barge, rowed by twelve sailors, and without escort of any kind. In this manner the President made his advent into Richmond, landing near Libby Prison. As the party stepped ashore they found a guide among the contrabands who quickly crowded the streets, for the possible coming of the President had been circulated through the city. Ten of the sailors, armed with carbines, were formed as a guard, six in front and four in rear, and between them the President, Admiral Porter, and the three officers who accompanied them walked the long distance, perhaps a mile and a half, to the center of the town.

    The imagination can easily fill up the picture of a gradually increasing crowd, principally of negroes, following the little group of marines and officers, with the tall form of the President in its center; and, having learned that it was indeed Mr. Lincoln, giving expression to joy and gratitude in the picturesque emotional ejaculations of the colored race. It is easy also to imagine the sharp anxiety of those who had the President's safety in charge during this tiresome and even foolhardy march through a city still in flames, whose white inhabitants were sullenly resentful at best, and whose grief and anger might at any moment culminate against the man they looked upon as the incarnation of their misfortunes. But no accident befell him. Reaching General Weitzel's headquarters, Mr. Lincoln rested in the mansion Jefferson Davis had occupied as President of the Confederacy, and after a day of sightseeing returned to his steamer and to Washington, to be stricken down by an assassin's bullet, literally “in the house of his friends.”

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