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War recollections. Story of the evacuation of Petersburg, by an eye-witness. A sad and solemn Sabbath. [from the Richmond, Va., Dispatch, June 12, 1894.]

With a flag of Truce—a shout of Victory—Swarming with Troops— Safeguards and protection.

The following interesting article has been furnished to the Dispatch by the gentleman to whom it is addressed:

Dear Sir: As requested, I give you my recollections of the evacuation of Petersburg by the Confederate and its occupation by the Federal forces in the early days of April, 1865, for publication in your second volume of ‘War Talks of Confederate Veterans.’

On Saturday, the 1st of April, 1865, rumors were in general circulation throughout the city of Petersburg that General Lee would soon evacuate the city. On Sunday, the 2d, these rumors crystalized into full assurance that the evacuation was imminent; the fact [70] that the military authorities were engaged in the destruction (by burning) of tobacco and other articles within the city limits in the early hours of that day being the basis of this assurance.

A special meeting of the Common Council was convened, and, after consultation, it was determined that the best and, indeed, the only thing that could be done was to appoint a committee to be charged with the duty of waiting on General Lee, in person, and ascertaining whether or not his purpose was to evacuate the city, and a committee was accordingly appointed, charged with this duty. The committee was further deputed, in the event of the evacuation of the city, to ask the protection of our people at the hands of the Federal army. The resolution adopted by the Council was offered by Mr. D'Arcy Paul, and, as shown by the records of the Council, was as follows:

Resolved, That a committee, consisting of the Mayor and two members, be appointed to wait on General Lee and request that he inform said committee, at such time as he may deem necessary, whether he contemplates evacuating the city; and that, if an evacution is contemplated, said committee be instructed to surrender the city to the commander of the Federal army, and request protection of the citizens and their property.’

Zzzgeneral Lee reticent.

The committee, which consisted of the Mayor (Hon. W. W. Townes), James Boisseau (as well as I can remember), and myself—the records of the Council do not show who the committee were—waited on General Lee at his headquarters at the Dupuy House (now the suburban residence of John McGill, Esq., of this city), situated about a mile west of the city, on the Dupuy road, in the county of Dinwiddie. General Lee was not at his headquarters when the committee arrived, but rode up a short time thereafter, and promptly gave audience to the committee. Our mission was made known. The General was apparently calm and collected, but very reticent, only replying to the committee that he would communicate with us at the residence of Mr. Paul, in the city of Petersburg, that (Sunday) night at 10 o'clock. This place was suggested as Major Giles B. Cook, who was a member of General Lee's staff, was a kinsman or connection of Mr. Paul, and a frequent visitor at his house.

The sadness and solemnity of that Sabbath day can never be forgotten. The hours passed slowly, but night finally came. The hour [71] of 10 was tolled by the clock, and a few minutes thereafter, the bearer of General Lee's message (Major Cook) arrived. Not only the committee, but all the councilmen, were now at Mr. Paul's house, so great was the interest felt in whatever was to be done. I remember also as present, the Rev. Dr. William H. Platt, then rector of St. Paul's Church, assisting with suggestions.

Zzzall withdrawn.

The message of General Lee was to the effect that the military would all be withdrawn by 12 o'clock that night, and the city left in charge of the civil authorities. The Council, informally assembled at Mr. Paul's, then agreed to divide up into squads of two or more, and to meet again at 4 o'clock the next morning to take the several routes leading into the city to meet and surrender the city to the Federal forces. Mayor Townes and myself were to take the direction of Cox road and the Dupuy road, and to pass through what was then known as the ‘Model Farm,’ the open field immediately west of the corporation line, through which the Petersburg and Asylum Railway now runs. After leaving Mr. Paul's residence, the Mayor and myself walked the streets during the entire night, and as we walked, Lee's soldiers, in large bodies, in squads, and singly, passed along through the streets towards the bridges over the Appomattox leading into Chesterfield County. All of them had well nigh passed before daybreak of Monday morning, but now and then would be seen a disabled man making his way in the direction of the bridges across the Appomattox, declaring, when cautioned by us that he would be captured, that he would take the risk. The dawn of day finally came and found the Mayor and myself, pursuant to the plan agreed upon, on our way to meet the Federals, expected to come in from the west. At daybreak we had reached the ‘Model Farm,’ and were plodding cautiously through it, westwardly, with our flag of truce flying—a white handkerchief fastened on a walking-cane. For some distance we walked forward without seeing a soldier, and, as we thought, without being ourselves seen.

Zzza shout of victory.

We had, indeed, reached the line of breastworks, into which the Confederates had fallen back the previous morning, just east of Old Town creek, when a signal gun was fired on our left, apparently in the neighborhood of Fort Gregg, and, instantaneously, there sprang forth, as from the bowels of the earth, it seemed to me, a mighty [72] host of Federal soldiers, and then followed such a shout of victory as seemed to shake the very ground on which we stood. This large body of Federals, with whose great numbers I was so much impressed, were in the Federal breastworks on the west side of Old Town creek, thrown up the previous morning when the Federals had broken through our lines and taken possession of the territory to the west of this stream; and they had been massed at the point we saw, preliminary to an assault on our works. As these Federals came forward towards us from the Federal earthworks from which they emerged-these works and the Confederate works, at this point, being less than 200 yards apart-Mayor Townes and I attempted to state our mission, but the officers would not take time to stop to hear what we had to say, the men rushing ahead to enter the city, but bade us come along with them, they (the officers) promising to protect us and to protect our people.

When we returned to the city some other Federal troops had already entered, as, upon reaching the court-house, we found the whole building, steeple and all, festooned with small Federal flags. Our mission, however, was now accomplished.

Zzzprotection afforded.

Every effort was made by the Federal officers and troops to protect the persons and property of our citizens. Safeguards were sent to every house for which they were asked. An officer, whose name I have forgotten, accompanied me to my house on Lombard Street, and after seeing me safely arrived, and declining an invitation I gave him to breakfast with me, left, promising a safeguard, who, in a short time, reported and took up his quarters at my residence, where he remained for a day or two. Everything was at once systemized by the military, and comparative order and quiet reigned under martial law. The citizens were required to report to the provost marshal and resume their allegiance. Federal sutlers soon engaged in business, occupying many of our stores for the purpose, and a good time was experienced by the few citizens so fortunate as to have greenbacks with which to purchase cheese, coffee, and such like articles, of which they had been so long deprived.

Zzzhis first greenback.

I shall never forget the first greenback that came into my possession. The day after the Federals came in, Max. Marshall, a sutler, who came in with the Federal army, made an arrangement with Captain [73] James E. Wolff, who had for years conducted a hat store on Sycamore Street, whereby Captain Wolff and himself were to go into partnership for carrying on the business of hatters. Captain Wolff brought him around to my law office on Lombard Street, which was then very much dismantled by the shot and shell that, from time to time, had invaded its walls, and asked me to prepare the articles of agreement, which I did, and received for my work, from the well-to-do-looking sutler, a fee of ten dollars, which he paid me with a brand-new ten—dollar greenback—the first, I believe, I ever saw.

This stroke of good fortune made me supremely happy, and must have manifested itself in my very countenance, as it was soon noised about among my friends and acquaintances that I had money, and I had numerous applications for loans, which I made very freely, in sums ranging from twenty-five cents to $1, having first reserved enough to purchase for myself a pound of cheese, a pound of coffee, and a box of sardines. I remember that Colonel William R. Johnson, a man of high position and property, entered a sutler's store, where I was making these purchases, and that I shared with him my good fortune by lending him a dollar.

Your friend and comrade,

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