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Chapter 54: capture of Richmond.--the destruction of the Confederate fleet in the James River, etc.

The naval operations on the Southern coast having terminated, owing to the capture of the enemy's ports, the vessels-of-war were distributed to other points, leaving only a sufficient number of gun-boats to preserve the peace and protect the inhabitants against the depredations of deserters from the Confederate army, who were making their way home in large numbers, and like hungry wolves eating up everything which came in their way.

Sherman's army on its march through the South has been compared by Confederate writers to a swarm of locusts; but these Confederate deserters were ten times worse than Sherman's men, who were supplied with abundant rations from their own commissariat.

The naval vessels on the coast were constantly called upon to fit out boat expeditions; which, with three or four hundred well-equipped men, would drive off the marauders and send them elsewhere in search of plunder. Thus, the Navy, not being governed by any feelings of rancor towards the Confederate sympathizers on shore, stood ready to shield from harm many who had been the bitterest foes of the Union.

Meanwhile, a large number of naval vessels assembled in Hampton Roads and on the James River, in anticipation of coming events, for all eyes now centred on Richmond, where General Lee and his army of veterans were making their final stand with little prospect of success against the overwhelming force brought to bear on them. The Federal Army was ready to move as soon as General Grant should know to a certainty that General Sherman had reached Goldsboroa, where it was expected he would come in contact with General J. E. Johnston's army of some forty thousand men, which was being daily strengthened by Confederates who had evacuated Savannah, Charleston and Wilmington.

This was one of the most anxious moments of the war. Hitherto Sherman had met with no serious opposition since leaving Columbia, but as he approached Goldsboroa the increasing numbers of the Confederates [793] in his front gave evidence that he was to meet with strong resistance.

Everything had been done by General Grant that was possible to reinforce Sherman. A column of troops from Wilmington and another from Newbern were dispatched to meet him, and to repair the railroads so that supplies could be rapidly sent to the Federal armies. All these movements were observed by the enemy with intense interest, and they hoped to be able to overwhelm and defeat these detached divisions before Sherman could come up. The column from Newbern, under Schofield, was attacked by General Bragg with his army, reinforced by Hill's division of the Army of the Tennessee. According to Confederate accounts, Schofield was routed, and fifteen hundred of his men captured; but as General Schofield crossed the Neuse River and entered Goldsboroa on the 21st, it would seem that the Federal progress was little, if any, impeded. The column from Wilmington, under General Terry, reached the Neuse River a short distance above Goldsboroa on the 22d, ready to cross when it suited him to do so.

Goldsboroa was evidently one of the culminating points of the war, and it was evident that, before Sherman could finish the last stage of his march and make a junction with Schofield and Terry, he would have some hard fighting to do. It had, doubtless, seemed to the Confederate Government good policy to let Sherman advance to a point where all their forces could be easily concentrated against him, and on the result of the General's attempt to reach Goldsboroa, in face of all the attending difficulties, depended, in a great measure, the ultimate course of the Confederate Government.

General Grant's movements also largely depended on the success of Sherman. The winter had been rainy, and the almost impassable condition of the Virginia roads made it impracticable to move an army with anything approaching to celerity, even as late as the end of March. This was, therefore, an anxious moment. Had it been possible for General Johnston to accumulate an army sufficiently strong to, defeat Sherman, Grant could not have gone to the latter's assistance, owing to the condition of the roads. Sherman was then the central figure of the war — on his management depended the terms that would be demanded of General Lee when Grant should move on Petersburg and Richmond.

President Lincoln, being no longer able to restrain his anxiety, now proceeded to City Point, and would doubtless have been joined by the members of the Cabinet had he not expressly forbidden it.

Besides the troops under the command of General J. E. Johnston, Sherman had some of the ablest generals in the Confederacy to contest his march. General Beauregard had been reinforced at Charlotte, N. C., by General Cheatham and the garrison of Augusta, and was moving towards Raleigh. General Hardee. with the troops from Savannah and Charleston, was marching towards the same point, as were General Bragg and Hoke from Wilmington; so that it appeared as if Sherman would encounter an army of eighty thousand men, commanded by one who was considered by many competent judges the ablest of the Confederate generals. There was certainly no general on the other side for whose abiliities Sherman had so great a respect as for those of Johnston. Beauregard, Hardee and Bragg gave him comparatively little uneasiness, and he was glad when Hood relieved Johnston at Atlanta, as he then felt assured of victory.

But the Confederate army, which in the enumeration of its parts appeared so imposing, was no match for Sherman's victorious hosts, who had gained a prestige they did not intend to forfeit. Circumstances also combined to favor Sherman's advance. When the Federal campaign in South Carolina commenced, Hardee had eighteen thousand men; when he reached Cheraw he had but eleven thousand, and at Averyboroa the number had diminished to six thousand. Most of this falling off was due to desertions, and it afforded an indication of the rapid collapse of the military enthusiasm which had once prevailed in the Southern Confederacy.

General Hardee attempted to impede Sherman's march when the latter reached the narrow territory between the Cape Fear and the Black River, but was able to effect very little, retreating as night came on towards Smithfield, N. C. On the 18th, the Federal Army moved on Goldboroa in two columns, the 15th and 17th Corps on the direct road from Fayetteville, and the 14th and 20th Corps on the road from Averyboroa. The former column was supposed by the Confederates to be a day's march in advance of the other, and it was therefore determined to concentrate all their available troops against it on the 19th.

Then was fought the battle of Bentonville by the combined forces of Bragg and Hardee, with the object of crippling Sherman before he could effect a junction with Schofield and Terry, and the action was for a time so severe that it looked as if General Johnston would accomplish his purpose. But on the 20th General Sherman's whole army confronted the Confederates; before daybreak, on the 22d, General Johnston moved towards Smithfield, leaving many of his wounded on the field. His loss in the [794] three days fighting, according to Confederate accounts, was 224 killed and 1,499 wounded, the small loss being accounted for by the fact that the Confederates fought under cover, which gave them a great advantage over the Federal troops. Next day (the 23d) the junction was made by General Sherman with the troops of Schofield and Terry, which disposed of General Johnston's army for the time being.

All the principal lines of railroad leading South were now within the reach of Sherman's man's forces or under their control, and the ultimate result could not be doubtful. It was impossible for General Johnston to retreat south without danger of his army breaking up through desertion, and his only chance was to strongly intrench himself and maintain a threatening attitude.

General Sherman felt so sure of the final surrender of General Johnston, that, after placing General Schofield in command of his army at Goldsboroa, he proceeded in the little steamer Russia to City Point, Virginia, to confer with General Grant on the situation, arriving on the 27th of March. President Lincoln was then on board the steamer River Queen, at City Point, and he received General Sherman with the warmth of feeling which distinguished him, for he felt that the presence of Sherman at City Point was an assurance that the latter had Johnston's army in such a position that it could do no further mischief.

The arrival of General Sherman brought joy and confidence to every one in the Army and Navy on the James River, for it was understood that he now held General Johnston in a position from which the latter could not move without precipitating a battle with over eighty thousand veteran soldiers, well supplied with everything necessary, while the Confederates were badly provided with provisions, clothing, and even ammunition.

At one time it was thought that General Johnston would endeavor to break away from Smithfield and effect a junction with General Lee. In the light of subsequent events, this is seen to have been impossible. Again, it was thought that Lee would, perhaps, evacuate Richmond and make a junction with Johnston — a movement equally impracticable, for Grant was extending his left below Petersburg, and should Lee leave his fortified lines Grant would follow him so closely that it would be impossible for him to unite with General Johnston or fall on Sherman's army. Besides, with his eighty thousand men. Sherman felt confident that he could hold his own against Johnston and Lee combined until Grant could come upon the scene with his troops.

The morning after General Sherman's arrival at City Point, a council of war was held on board the steamboat River Queen, at which were present the President, General Grant, General Sherman and Admiral Porter. As considerable controversy has arisen over the terms of surrender offered to General Johnston, and the truth of the matter is not generally known, we will here narrate what occurred on the occasion, as we violate no injunction of secrecy by so doing.

The principal conversation was between the President and General Sherman. The former stated his opinion at length. He feared that General Lee, seeing the Federal lines closing about him day by day, the coast completely blockaded, the Confederate army almost destitute of clothing and provisions, might attempt to break away from his fortifications at Richmond, make a junction with Johnston, and escape to the south. This was rather an extreme view to take of the matter, for, in the opinion of those best qualified to judge, such an attempt on the part of General Lee could not have succeeded. General Sherman had eighty thousand fine troops at Goldsboroa, only one hundred and fifty miles from Richmond and one hundred and twenty miles from Greensboroa, at which latter point the Richmond and Danville railroad, the only route by which Lee could escape, was cut. All this General Sherman explained to the President, who was some what reassured, yet the number of shrewd questions propounded by Mr. Lincoln was remarkable, and some of them were found difficult to answer. His topographical knowledge of the country traversed by Sherman's army, as well as other military matters he was not supposed to be familiar with, surprised those who listened to him.

Like the rest of those present at the council, the President was confident that the end of the war was close at hand, and, although a bloody battle might yet be fought, Richmond must soon be in possession of the Federal Government. It was the great desire of the President to secure the surrender of the Confederate armies without further loss of life, to which end he desired the most liberal terms should be granted. “Let them surrender and go home,” he said; “they will not take up arms again. Let them all go, officers and all, let them have their horses to plow with, and, if you like, their guns to shoot crows with. Treat them liberally. We want these people to return to their allegiance and submit to the laws. Therefore, I say, give them the most liberal and honorable terms.” These sentiments were worthy of the man who uttered them.

General Sherman, however, took a military view of the situation. He had made a long and toilsome march and desired to reap the honors due to a victorious general. [795] Feeling certain that the game was in his own hands, he did not hesitate to differ with the President. assuring the latter that he had sufficient force and strength of position to dictate his own terms to General Johnston, ston, and he graphically illustrated, with the aid of a map. the condition of affairs at Goldsboroa and Smithfield.

“All I want.” said General Sherman, “is two weeks time in which to clothe my soldiers I will then be ready to march on Johnston and compel him to surrender. He is short of everything, and in two weeks would have to surrender, anyway.”

“Yes,” replied the President, “but two weeks is a long time. and the first thing you know General Johnston will have gone south again with those veterans of his, and will keep the war going indefinitely. No, General, he must have no excuse cuse for going away; we must have his surrender at all hazards, so be easy with him about terms.”

Mr. President,” said General Sherman, “there is no possible way for Johnston to escape as he is now situated. I can command mand his unconditional surrender.”

“What is to prevent Johnston from escaping with his army by the southern railroads while you are fitting out your men?” inquired General Grant.

“There are no southern railroads to speak of,” replied Sherman, “by which Johnston could escape. My ‘bummers’ broke up the roads, and did their work too well to permit them to be used by any one.”

“But,” said General Grant, “cannot the Confederates re-lay the rails, as our troops have done from Newbern to Goldsboroa?”

Sherman smiled. “No,” he said, “my boys don't do things by halves. They make a fire of the ties, and the rails are twisted until they are as crooked as rams' horns; all the blacksmiths in creation couldn't straighten them out again. Mr. President,” said Sherman, turning to Mr. Lincoln, “give yourself no uneasiness; the Confederacy will collapse in a few days; we hold the line between Goldsboroa and Wilmington; my transports can come as far as Newbern; we can overrun the South without hindrance; we are masters of the situation, and General Johnston must surrender.”

“All very well,” said the President, “but we must make no mistakes, and my way is a sure one: Offer General Johnston the same terms that will be offered Lee; then, if he will not accept them, try your plan; but as long as the Confederates lay down their arms I don't think it matters much how they do it. Don't let us have any more bloodshed if it can be avoided. General Grant is in favor of giving General Lee the most favorable terms.”

“Well, Mr. President,” said General Sherman, “I will carry out your wishes to the best of my ability, and I am satisfied when Richmond falls and Lee surrenders General Johnston will follow his example.”

This ended the memorable council on board the River Queen. On what took place on that occasion might depend whether the Confederates would lay down their arms or continue hostilities, thereby reducing the South to still greater straits, if possible, than it was then in. The President, being desirous that General Sherman should rejoin his command as soon as possible, the latter returned, the afternoon of the council, in the U. S. steamer “Bat” to Newbern, N. C.

At this day the policy of Mr. Lincoln will be recognized as good, both on the ground of expediency and of humanity. We were engaged in a war, not with foreigners, but against our own countrymen, with no object except to vindicate the authority of the Federal Government. There were no knotty questions involved, it was simply a question whether the Confederates could carry on the war any longer, or whether they would return to their allegiance. Even then the Confederates were more dangerous foes than a dozen European nations would have been, although in the most straitened circumstances, deficient in food, clothing and forage, and even in ammunition, so indispensable to an army. They had still a formidable force about Richmond, which, if it could effect a junction with Johnston's army, would offer a stout resistance under those able commanders. The Federal Government had had too many proofs of the ability of the Confederate generals and the gallantry of their soldiers to need any further evidence, and had no desire to drive them to desperation by requiring a degrading submission to its authority. The Government was now in a position to display not only its military strength but its magnanimity. It was right that, when the soldiers of the North clasped hands with those who had so long and bitterly opposed them in the field, they should desire to bury the past in oblivion, and resume once more the bonds of fraternal affection. The example set by Presisident Lincoln was followed by those who had borne the brunt of the conflict, and had learned to appreciate the courage and hardihood of their late antagonists. General Grant shared in the President's desire for the most liberal arrangements that could be entered into for the surrender of the Confederate armies; and while Mr. Lincoln had implicit confidence in Grant's military abilities, he relied no less on his good judgment and kind feeling, and it is fortunate that the last act in the bloody [796] drama of the civil war was under the direction of the two men acting in perfect accord, whose names will be handed down to posterity with increase of honor as the years roll by.

When General Lee surrendered at Appomattox the work of the North Atlantic Squadron was over, for all the James River region was in the hands of the Federals. Up to that time the squadron in Trent's Reach was quietly holding the Confederate iron-clads, under the command of Raphael Semmes-recently created Rear-Admiral--above Drury's Bluff, where they were quite harmless and would either have to be blown up or surrendered.

Admiral Semmes assumed command of the James River fleet on the 18th of February, 1865, relieving Commodore J. K. Mitchell. The fleet as reorganized comprised the following named vessels:

Virginia (iron-clad), flag-ship, four guns, Captain Dunnington; Richmond (iron-clad), four guns, Captain J. D. Johnson; son; Fredericksburg (iron-clad), four guns, Captain Glasse; Hampton (wooden), two guns, Captain Wilson (late of the Alabama); Nansemond (wooden), two guns, Captain W. K. Butt; Roanoke (wooden) two guns, Captain Polloc; Beaufort (wooden), two guns, Captain Wyatt; Torpedo (wooden), one gun, Captain Roberts.

This fleet was assisted in the defence of the river by shore batteries under command of naval officers — such as Drury's Bluff Battery, Battery Brooke, Battery Wood, and Battery Semmes. The Confederate vessels were not in the most efficient condition as regarded their personnel, which was mostly drawn from the army. The real difficulty in getting to Richmond with the Federal gun-boats was in the heavy fortifications along the James River above Howlett's Battery, the sunken torpedoes, and the obstructions in the channel, which could not be removed under fire.

While theFederal and Confederate forces on the river were in this position, General Grant was gradually enveloping Richmond with his army. The Confederate lines in the vicinity of Petersburg having been weakened by the necessity of withdrawing troops to defend Lee's extreme right at Five Forks, General Grant. on the morning of the 2d of April, ordered a vigorous assault to be made on the enemy, which gave the Federals possession of Petersburg, and rendered Richmond no longer tenable.

The night following this success, President Lincoln went oh board the flag-ship Malvern as the guest of Admiral Porter. On every hand was heard the sound of artillery and musketry, showing that the Federals were closing in on the Confederate lines.

The night before Richmond was evacuated by the Confederate forces, the President and Admiral Porter were seated on the upper deck of the flag-ship Malvern, when the President made the remark to the latter: “Can't the Navy do something at this particular moment to make history?” The Admiral replied: “The Navy is doing its best just now, holding the enemy's four heavy iron-clads in utter uselessness. If those vessels could reach City Point they would commit great havoc — as they came near doing while I was away at Fort Fisher. In consequence, General Grant ordered the channel to be still further obstructed with stones, so that no vessel can pass. We can hold the fort with a very small force and prevent any one from removing the obstructions. Therefore, the enemy's iron-clads are useless.”

“But, can't we make a noise?” asked the President. “Yes,” replied the Admiral, “and if you desire it I will commence.”

The Admiral telegraphed to Lieutenant-Commander K. R. Breese, Fleet-Captain, who was just above Dutch Gap, to have the vessels' guns loaded with shrapnel, to point in the direction of the forts and to keep up a rapid fire until directed to stop. The firing commenced about 11 o'clock P. M., and the President listened attentively while the flashes of the guns lighted up the horizon. In about twenty minutes a loud explosion shook the flag-ship and the President exclaimed: “I hope to Heaven one of our vessels has not blown up!” The Admiral assured him that the explosion was much further up the river and that it was doubtless one of the Confederate iron-clads. A second explosion soon followed, and not long after two more, which caused the Admiral to remark: “That's all of them; no doubt the forts are evacuated and tomorrow we can go up to Richmond.”

By eight o'clock the following morning the work of removing the obstructions in the channel was completed sufficiently to allow the passage of the flag-ship, and several of the smaller vessels went up the river and with their boats began sweeping the stream for torpedoes. It was soon discovered that all the forts had been evacuated, and nothing was to be seen of the Confederate iron-clads except their black hulls, partly out of water.

In the meantime, General Weitzel, who was on the left bank of the James with a large body of troops, hearing the firing of the gun-boats and the explosions of the Confederate iron-clads, got all his men under arms, supposing that the Federal gun-boats were engaging the enemy's vessels and forts. A large force of Confederates in [797] Weitzel's front, which barred the way to Richmond, seems to have been of the same opinion, and, leaving their trenches, retreated on the city. When daylight appeared, finding that there was no force opposing him, and that the road to Richmond was clear, Weitzel marched in and took possession of the city. This was the way it appeared to the Federal officers present on the occasion; but we insert the Confederate side of the story, as told by Rear-Admiral Raphael Semmes, who certainly ought to have known something about the matter. Admiral Semmes states that when sitting down to his dinner on board his flag-ship, about 4 o'clock on the 2d of April, the day Grant had broken through Lee's lines, a special messenger brought him a letter from the Confederate Secretary of the Navy. As Semmes had not heard of the occurrences at Petersburg, he was somewhat surprised at the contents of this epistle, which were as follows:

Confederate States of America, Executive Office, Richmond, Va., April 2, 1865.
Rear-Admiral Raphael Semmes, Commanding James River Squadron:
Sir--General Lee advises the Government to withdraw from the city, and the officers will leave this evening accordingly. I presume that General Lee has advised you of this and of his movements, and made suggestions as to the disposition to be made of your squadron. He withdraws upon his lines towards Danville this night; and, unless otherwise directed by General Lee, upon you is devolved the duty of destroying your ships this night, and with all the forces under your command joining General Lee. Confer with him, if practicable, before destroying them. Let your people be rationed as far as possible for the march, and armed and equipped for duty in the field.

Very respectfully, your obedient servant,

S. R. Mallory, Secretary of the Navy.

It was evident that Richmond was to have been evacuated that night, and by a curious coincidence the firing from the Federal gun-boats commenced early the same evening, which doubtless caused Semmes to expedite his movements. He signalled for all commanding officers of vessels to repair on board the flag-ship, and impressed upon them the importance of keeping the intended operations secret, lest the suspicions of the Federals might be excited.

Semmes remarks: “The sun was shining brightly, the afternoon was calm, and Nature was just putting on her spring attire.” He could not help contrasting the peace and quiet of Nature “with the description of a great Government and the ruin of an entire people, which was at hand:”

So unsuspicious were the Government subordinates of what was going on, that the flag-of-truce boats were still plying between Richmond and the Federal headquarters, a few miles below on the river, carrying backward and forward exchange prisoners. As these boats would pass the ships-of-war, filled to overflowing with the poor fellows just released from Yankee prisons, broken, wan and hollow-eyed, the prisoners would break into the most enthusiastic cheering as they passed the Confederate flag. It seemed to welcome them home. They little dreamed that it would be struck that night forever, and the fleet blown into the air that their own fetters had been knocked off in vain, and that they were to pass henceforth under the rule of the hated Yankee.

Thus mused Rear-Admiral Semmes on the eve of blowing up his squadron. Circumstances prevented him from communicating with General Lee; and, seeing that it was a case where every one must take care of himself, Semmes determined to destroy his vessels at once, especially as the Confederate Army seemed to be setting fire to everything around them, and leaving in a hurry. Semmes had originally intended to sink his vessels quietly, so that the Federals would have no idea of what was going on; but soon after dark he saw the whole horizon to the north of the James lighted up, rendering concealment on his part no longer necessary. Semmes omits to mention that the Federal gun-boats were thundering at the gates, which was the real reason for so hastily destroying the iron-clads. The officers and men were put on board the small gun-boats, and at about midnight the iron clads blew up, one after another, with a terrific explosion, adding to the grandeur of the scene already existing of burning barracks. The shells bursting a the fire came in contact with them, the signal-rockets from both sides filling the air like thousands of shooting-stars; the booming of guns in the distance, the long roll of the drums calling the troops to fall in, mingled with the sound of trumpets, all combined to make a spectacle and an uproar as though pandemonium had broken loose. It seemed as if heaven and earth had united to celebrate the conclusion of a struggle that had caused so much suffering.

That was the end of the Confederate Navy, which went up in what might have been considered a blaze of glory, but for the fact that the James River fleet had been the most useless force the Confederates had ever put afloat — the forts, torpedoes and obstructions on the river being far more formidable adversaries, and quite sufficient, if properly managed, to keep any hostile vessels from ascending the narrow channel, where, if one should happen to be sunk, it would effectually bar the progress of those behind it.

The work of the Federal Navy was all over in this quarter, and those who for many months had guarded the obstructions in the river rejoiced when the monotonous task was concluded. If rockets were sent [798] up, and blue lights burned, and national salutes fired, the demonstration was as much on account of the return of peace as in honor of victory. It signalized the end of that fraternal strife between people who could never live apart, but who, united under one Government, could bid defiance to the world in arms.

Whether our country will profit as much as it should do from past experience remains to be seen; but, so far, we have not given much evidence of progress in matters pertaining to the defence of our coasts and the construction of a Navy adequate to protect the nation from foreign and domestic enemies; which latter exist in every country, no matter how beneficent may be its laws.

When the channel was reported clear of torpedoes, a large number of which was taken up, Admiral Porter proceeded up towards Richmond in the Malvern, with President Lincoln on board the steamer River Queen. Finally, the Malvern grounded below the city, and the Admiral, taking the President in his barge, accompanied by a tug with a file of marines, continued on to Richmond.

About a mile below the landing, the tug was permitted to go to the relief of a party in a small steamer who were caught under a bridge and held by the current, and the barge proceeded alone. The street along the river-front was deserted, and, although the Federal troops had been in possession of the city some hours, not a soldier was to be seen. At the landing was a small house, and behind it a dozen negroes were digging with spades. Their leader, an old man, sprang forward exclaiming: “Bress de Lord, dere is de great Messiah!” and he fell on his knees before the President, his comrades following his example. The President was much embarrassed. “Don't kneel to me,” he said, “kneel to God only, and thank Him for the liberty you will hereafter enjoy.” It was a minute or two before the officers could get the negroes to leave the President; but time was precious. The negroes joined hands and sang a hymn, to which the President listened respectfully.

Four minutes had passed since the party had landed in apparently deserted streets; but, now that the hymn was sung, the streets seemed to be suddenly alive with the colored race, the crowd around the President became very oppressive, and it was necessary to order the boat's crew to fix bayonets and surround him to keep him from being crushed. The negroes, in their ecstasy, could not be made to understand that they were detaining the President, and would not feel that they were free unless they heard it from his own lips. Mr. Lincoln, therefore, made a few remarks, assuring them that they were free and giving them good advice, after which the party managed to move slowly on to the city.

Passing the Libby Prison, the President paused for a moment to look at the place where so many Union soldiers had dragged out a dreadful existence. “We will pull it down!” shouted the crowd of poor whites and negroes. “No.” said the President, “leave it as a monument.”

As the party slowly reached the city, the sidewalks were lined with people, white and black, but there was no anger on any face. It was like a gala-day, and no man was ever accorded a warmer welcome. The heat of the weather was suffocating; the President towered a head and shoulders above the crowd, fanning himself with his hat, and looking as if he would give the Presidency for a glass of water. Now the windows flew up, and eager, peering faces seemed to ask: “Is this man, with soft eyes and kind face, the one that has been held up to us as the incarnation of wickedness, the destroyer of the South?” The city was still on fire, and the smoke almost choked the Presidential party.

While stopped a moment by the crowd, a white man in his shirt-sleeves rushed towards the President. When he got within ten feet of him he stopped, took off his hat. and cried out, “Abraham Lincoln, God bless you! you are the poor man's friend!” Just after this, a beautiful girl struggled through the crowd and presented Mr. Lincoln with a bouquet of roses. There was no cheering at this, nor any evidence of disapprobation, but it was evidently a matter of great interest, for the girl was surrounded and plied with questions on returning to the sidewalk.

What could all this mean but that the people of Richmond were glad to see the end of the war and the advent of a milder form of Government? They had, no doubt, felt that the late Government should have remained at the capital and surrendered in a dignified manner, making terms for the citizens, guarding their rights and acknowledging that they had lost the game. There was nothing to be ashamed of in such a surrender. Their armies had fought as people never fought before, and all that was wanted to make them glorious was the submission of the leaders with the troops in a dignified way, while they might have said: “We have done our best to win, but you are too strong for us; we pledge ourselves to keep the peace.” Instead of remaining to protect the citizens against the ruffianism of the mob, the Confederate authorities of Richmond left that to the Federal troops, and no soldiers ever performed a trust more faithfully. At the moment when President Lincoln entered [799] the city, the majority of them were engaged in putting out the fires that were started by the Confederates as they left the place, determined, it would seem, to destroy the public works, so that the Federals could derive no benefit from them.

At length, a cavalry-man was encountered sitting his horse and gazing at the President with much interest. The Admiral sent him at once to inform the general-in-command of the arrival of the President, and to request a military escort to guard him and enable him to force his way through the crowd. A troop of cavalry soon arrived, the streets were cleared, and the President soon reached the mansion just vacated by Mr. Davis, and now the headquarters of Generals Weitzel and Shepley. It was a modest house, comfortably but plainly furnished.

A great crowd of civilians now assembled around this house, greeting the President with loud cheers. General Shepley made a speech, after which the President and party entered a carriage and visited the State-House, the late seat of the Confederate Congress. The building was in dreadful disorder, showing the sudden flight of the legislators.

After this inspection, Admiral Porter urged the President to go on board the Malvern, as he began to feel the responsibility resting on him for the care of his person. The Admiral was oppressed with uneasiness until he once more stood with Mr. Lincoln on the deck of the flag-ship, and he determined the President should go nowhere again, while under his charge, without a guard of marines.

That evening, at about eight o'clock, a man hailed the Malvern, which was then anchored off the city, saying that he had dispatches for the President. A boat was sent on shore, with orders to bring the dispatches, but not the bearer of them; but returned with neither dispatches nor man. The boat officer said the person would deliver the dispatches to no one but the President himself. After some discussion, the boat was sent back to bring the man on board, but he had disappeared. The Admiral inquired about his appearance, and from the description was afterwards satisfied that the pretended bearer of dispatches was Wilkes Booth. Half an hour later another hail came from the shore, which was not more than twenty yards distant. A sailor from the Saugus wanted to report on board. There was no such vessel in the fleet, though there was one of that name in the Navy. A boat was sent to bring the man off, but he was nowhere to be seen. These circumstances made those charged with the care of the President more suspicious, and every precaution was taken that no one should get on board the Malvern without full identification. The President himself felt a little nervous, and that night a marine kept guard at his state-room door.

Next morning, at 10 o'clock, Mr. John A. Campbell, late Associate Justice of the Supreme Court of the United States, sent a request — to be allowed to come on board with General Weitzel, to call on the President. He spent an hour on board, Mr. Lincoln and himself seeming to enjoy themselves very much, to judge from their laughter. After General Weitzel and Mr. Campbell had returned on shore, Admiral Porter went below, and the President said to him: “Admiral, I am sorry you were not here when Mr. Campbell was on board. He has gone on shore happy. I gave him a written permission to allow the State Legislature to convene in the Capitol in the absence of all other governments.” The Admiral was astonished at this piece of information, and felt that this course would bring about complications. He found it all had been done by the persuasive tongue of Mr. Campbell, who had promised the President that, if the Legislature of Virginia could meet, it would vote the State right back into the Union, and cause all the Virginia troops to lay down their arms; that it would be a delicate compliment paid to Virginia. and would be appreciated, etc. General Weitzel agreed with Mr. Campbell, and the President was won over to agree to what would have been a most humiliating thing if it had been accomplished.

When Mr. Lincoln informed the Admiral that General Weitzel had gone on shore with an order permitting the Legislature to meet, the Admiral reminded the President that the city of Richmond was under martial law, and that no civil authority could exercise any power without the sanction of the General commanding the Army. This order should go through General Grant, who would doubtless protest against this arrangement with Mr. Campbell.

The President remarked, “Weitzel made no objection, and he commands here.” “That is because he is Mr. Campbell's particular friend,” replied the Admiral, “and wished to gratify him.”

“Run and stop them,” said the President, “and get my order back.”

To make things sure, the Admiral had an order signed by the President, and directed to General Weitzel as follows: “Return my permission to the Legislature of Virginia to meet, and don't allow it to meet at all.” An ambulance wagon was at the landing, and, giving the order to an officer, the Admiral said to him “Jump into that wagon and kill the horse, if necessary, but catch the carriage which carried General Weitzel and Mr. Campbell, and deliver this [800] order to the General.” The carriage was overtaken, the President's order was sent back, and no attempt was made to induce the latter to reconsider his decision. This was a clever scheme on the part of Mr. Justice Campbell to soothe the wounded feelings of the South, and no doubt was kindly meant, but it would have created a commotion in the North.

About an hour after the departure of Mr. Campbell, a man dressed in gray homespun, with a huge rough stick in his hand, appeared at the landing and demanded to see the President. “I am Duff Green,” he said; “I want to see Abraham Lincoln, and my business concerns myself alone. You tell Abraham Lincoln that Duff Green wants to see him.” The officer of the deck delivered this message in the cabin, and the President said, “Let him come on board; Duff is an old friend of mine, and I would like to talk with him.”

When Mr. Duff Green passed over the side, he stood defiantly on deck, scowled at the flag, then turning to Admiral Porter, whom he knew very well, said: “I want to see Abraham Lincoln.” “When you come in a respectful manner,” said the Admiral, “the President will see you; but throw away that cord of wood you have in your hand before entering the President's presence.”

“How long is it,” inquired Duff Green, “since Abraham Lincoln took to aping royalty? Man clothed in a little brief authority cuts such fantastic capers before high heaven as make the angels weep. I expect airs from a naval officer, but not from a man with Abraham Lincoln's horse-sense.”

The Admiral thought, and still thinks, the man was crazy; but he made Mr. Green throw his stick overboard, which was done, with the remark: “Has it come to that? Is he afraid of assassination? Tyrants generally get into that condition.”

The Admiral reported all this to the President, who remarked: “Let him come down; he always was a little queer; I shan't mind him.”

When Mr. Green was shown into the cabin, the President arose and offered him his hand. “No,” said Green, with a tragic air, “it is red with blood; I can't touch it. When I knew it, it was an honest hand. It has cut the throats of thousands of my people, and their blood, which now lies soaking into the ground, cries aloud to heaven for vengeance. I came to see you, not for old remembrance‘ sake, but to give you a piece of my opinion. You won't like it, but I don't care, for people don't generally like to have the truth told them. You have come here, protected by your Army and Navy, to gloat over the ruin and desolation you have caused. You are a second Nero, and had you lived in his day you would have fiddled while Rome was burning.”

When the fanatic commenced his tirade, Mr. Lincoln stood with outstretched hand, his mouth wreathed in a pleasant smile. He was pleased at meeting an old and esteemed friend. As Duff Green started on his talk, the outstretched hand was withdrawn, the smile left his lips and the softness in the President's eyes faded out. He was another man altogether. Green went on without noticing the change in the President's manner and appearance: “You came here,” he continued “to triumph over a poor conquereda town, with only women and children in it, whose soldiers have left it, and would rather starve than see your hateful presence here; those soldiers — and only a handful at that — who have for four years defied your paid mercenaries on those glorious hills, and have taught you to respect the rights of the South. You have given your best blood to conquer them, and now you will march back to your demoralized Capitol and lay out your wits to win them over so that you can hold this Government in perpetuity. Shame on you! Shame on----”

Mr. Lincoln could stand it no longer, his hair stood on end and his nostrils dilated. He stretched out his arm until his lean forefinger almost touched Duff Green's face. “Stop, you political tramp,” he exclaimed; “you, the aider and abettor of those who have brought all this ruin upon your country, without the courage to risk your person in defence of the principles you profess to espouse! A fellow who stood by to gather up the loaves and fishes, if any should fall to you! A man who had no principles in the North, and took none South with him! A political hyena, who robbed the graves of the dead and adopted their language as his own! You talk of the North cutting the throats of the Southern people. You have all cut your own throats, and unfortunately have cut many of those of the North. Miserable impostor, vile intruder! Go, before I forget myself and the high position I hold! Go, I tell you, and don't desecrate this national vessel another minute!”

This was something Mr. Duff Green had not calculated upon. His courage failed him, and he fled out of the cabin, never stopping until he reached the deck, where he stood looking at the shore, seemingly measuring the distance to see if he could swim to the landing. The Admiral followed close behind him, and said to the officer of the deck, “Put that man on shore, and if he appears in sight of this vessel while we are here, have him sent away with scant ceremony.”

When the Admiral returned to the cabin, [801] fifteen minutes later, the President was perfectly calm, as if nothing had happened, and did not refer to the subject for some hours. “This place seems to give you annoyance, sir,” said the Admiral; “would you prefer going to City Point, where we are more among friends than here?” “Yes,” replied the President, “let us go. I seem to be putting my foot into it here all the time. Bless my soul! how Seward would have preached and read Puffendorf, Vattel and Grotius to me, if he had been here when I gave Campbell permission to let the Legislature meet! I'd never have heard the last of it. Seward is a small compendium of international law himself, and laughs at my horse-sense, which I pride myself on, and yet I put my foot into that thing about Campbell with my eyes wide open. If I were you, Admiral, I don't think I would repeat that joke yet awhile. People might laugh at you for knowing so much more than the President.”

Several incorrect accounts of the President's visit to Richmond have from time to time appeared in print, for which reason we have inserted this narrative of Mr. Lincoln's proceedings.

The President returned to Washington, and with the surrender of General Lee the war was virtually at an end; so that the services of the Navy in the James River, with the exception of a few gun-boats, could be dispensed with. The latter were needed for police duty along the river and to pick up stragglers from the Confederate army. No one but an eye-witness could realize the great change in the aspect of affairs that suddenly took place. Naval vessels headed down stream towards Fortress Monroe, then to proceed to such Navy Yards as they might be ordered to. Army transports were hurrying to City Point to remove troops and stores as might be required. Officers no longer wore an anxious look, everywhere contentment reigned, for each one was pleased that the long struggle was over and there was a prospect of soon seeing a united country.

Notwithstanding Rear-Admiral Semmes, in his Memoirs, dilates on the joy of the exchanged prisoners at once more saluting the Confederate flag waving on board his vessels, it is well known that the Confederate soldiers and sailors had for a year past been heartily tired of the war; and that their armies were gradually becoming demoralized, as was evident from the great number of desertions, which reduced Lee's forces to such a small number at the surrender. Those who remained with their General to the end may be compared to the Old Guard of Napoleon. Yet even these veterans were anxious to reach their homes, and every one who knew anything about the matter felt with Mr. Lincoln that it was well to give them their horses with which to plow their fields, and their muskets to shoot the crows with, for which indulgence they would feel so grateful that they would probably never again raise their hands against the Government.

Had it been necessary to equip an army for the purpose of driving the French from Mexico, the very troops that had fought so persistently against the Federal Government would have been the foremost to volunteer for the service, and would have been preferred for the duty, since it was well that such unsettled spirits should have had employment, and they would have had an opportunity to strike a blow for the old flag which would tend to make them faithful to it forever. It may, therefore, be considered a misfortune that the French made their exit from Mexico on the first demand of the United States Government, for to have driven them out with a combined army of the blue and the gray would have contributed more to make our country united than all the arts of politicians.

We have several days appointed during the year for national observance--July 4th, February 22d, etc.--but there is one day which brought more happiness to the country than any other, which is the day when peace was established between the North and South, and the nation was once more restored to its entirety. There should be a national anniversary established to commemorate the return of peace — the anniversary of the day when General Lee laid down his arms with the determination never to take them up again against the Union, in which he was followed by General Johnston and all the other generals of the Confederacy.

Such a national anniversary should not be observed with any purpose of exulting over those who laid down their arms and returned to their allegiance, but simply to commemorate the return of peace and the union of the whole nation — that union on which the prosperity of all the States depends. That would be a day in which every one could take part; for he must be blind, indeed, who cannot see the innumerable blessings that have been poured upon our country.

We join hands now over the resting-places of the gallant dead and strew flowers alike on the graves of the boys in blue and the boys in gray. Let there be a common Anniversary, where all can clasp hands, and let that be the memorable day when the Confederacy laid down their arms.

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