outstanding account of Lincoln’s visit to Richmond by a Union cavalry officer who was definitely present at the time– notes that Lincoln went to the White House of the Confederacy twice, and takes direct aim at Graves’ account and cites the New York Times article to prove that he was one of the first officers into Richmond.
From the National Tribune, 10/1/1896, p. 1, c. 6
LINCOLN IN RICHMOND.
True Version of the War President’s Famous Visit.
INVITED BY GRANT
Greeted on All Sides by the Blacks He Had Freed.
Nothing to Mar the Pleasure of the Visit.
BY GEORGE T. DUDLEY, FIRST LIEUTENANT, 50th N. Y. ENG., WASHINGTON, D. C.
GEN. GRANT extended an invitation to President Lincoln, March 20, 1865, to visit him at his Headquarters at City Point, Va. The invitation was accepted, and on the 22d, accompanied by Mrs. Lincoln and their son “Tad,” he proceeded to that place in the steamer River Queen. The President was also accompanied by Capt. Charles B. Penrose (lately deceased), was detailed by Secretary Stanton as a personal Aid to Mr. Lincoln, and to have care for his general welfare.
The President made his home on the River Queen for some 15 days, the vessel being known at the Point as “The President’s Flag-ship.” His time was largely occupied in visiting the hospitals and different camps and in witnessing the reviews of troops at and near the Point, and, mounted on a saddle-horse, his tall form, made more conspicuous by his high silk hat, and accompanied by Tad, was a familiar sight to the soldiers, who always greeted him with cheers, loyal and sincere.
The President shook hands with Gen. Grant on the morning of March 29, and bade him “good-by and Godspeed” as he took the train for the front to lead the Army of the Potomac to its last and grandest victory. The next few days were full of anxiety for the President. The thunder of cannon and almost constant roar of musketry plainly heard at the Point told of the conflict so fiercely raging, but on the morning of the 3d of April his heart was made glad by a telegram from Gen. Grant announcing the fall of Petersburg, and inviting him to meet him there that morning. Attended by his son Tad he made the trop of about 13 miles on horseback, and about 9:30 a. m. met the General at the house of Thomas Wallace, on Market street. The resident was received with
by the soldiers, and the colored people went wild with joy at the sight of “Massa Linkum.”
After returning to City Point that evening Admiral Porter made arrangements for the President to visit the rebel Capital next day. The Presidential party consisted of Mr. Lincoln, Tad, Capt. Chas. B. Penrose, and Lieut. Carroll, of the Signal Corps, on board the River Queen; Admiral Porter, on his flagship, Malvern; The Bat (escort of the River Queen); a small escort of cavalry and an ambulance for the use of the party after their arrival in the city, on board the steamer Columbus; with a small tugboat used by the President bringing up the rear.
It was a lovely Spring morning, the air soft and balmy, the President in good spirits over the capture of the two cities, and nothing occurred to mar the pleasure of the trip until the obstructions in the river were reached.
Some distance above Drewry’s Bluff the rebels had driven heavy piles in the channel, leaving only a narrow passage, which could readily be closed, if necessary. In addition, they had placed torpedoes above and below the piling, and these had to be removed before it was safe to proceed.
At the obstructions the rebel flag-of-truce boat Allison, with Admiral Farragut on board, returning from Richmond to Norfolk, in trying to assist one of the vessels which had run aground, got fast herself, and swinging across the opening, blocked the passage of the steamers.
The Presidential party here transferred to the tug, which passed the obstructions, with the Admiral’s barge in tow, intending to finish the journey on it, and leave the other vessels to follow after clearing the channel. The tugboat soon ran aground, and as it was uncertain how soon she could be gotten off, the party concluded to continue the trip in the barge, and with 12 sailors to row them, carefully feeling their way, without other escort, they reached the city without further accident or delay.
A landing was made at the steamboat wharf in the extreme eastern end of the city, called “The Rocketts,” and when the President stepped upon the wharf the streets were deserted, except for the presence of a few colored individuals idling in the sun.
Instead of entering the conquered city attended by a brilliant staff of officers and troops, with banners flying and bands playing, and being received with the honors due to his exalted position,
ALMOST ALONE AND UNGUARDED
Our President stepped upon the wharf, and the only people present to welcome him were the poor, despised freedmen whose shackles he had loosed forever.
It was shortly after 3 p. m. when attracted by the continued shouting and cheering in the direction of “The Rocketts,” we rode rapidly in that direction and met the Presidential party on Main street, but a short distance from the landing, marching in the middle of the street, and surrounded by a crowd of negroes, frantic with joy at seeing “Massa Linkum.”
It was a pleasing and never-to-be-forgotten sight to see Abraham Lincoln, instead of riding in pageant, with the accompanying music, pomp and splendor due his exalted station, walking the streets of proud by fallen Richmond, surrounded by an admiring crowd, where but a few short hours before he was the subject of rebel jest and vituperation.
Gen. Weitzel had not been notified of Mr. Lincoln’s intended visit, communication with City Point not having been established, and Admiral Porter, instead of delaying landing to notify him of their presence, and awaiting his arrival with a carriage and strong military escort to protect the President from any possible danger, as it was his duty to do, formed his little party and set out on his hunt for the Headquarters of Gen. Weitzel. Admiral Porter could not have realized the grave responsibility he assumed in exposing Mr. Lincoln to assassination at the hands of some fanatic who by his death might seek to avenge the fall of the city, and by removing him seek to immortalize himself and win the applause and gratitude of the South.
Fortunately for the Nation, no act of violence was attempted, and the visit of the President was one continued ovation. His coming was not unexpected, as the evening Whig resumed publication that day, (a half-sheet, printed on coarse, yellow paper,) and contained the following notice:
“We learn that it is not improbable His Excellency, President Lincoln, will reach the city this afternoon.”
The news of his arrival quickly spread through the city, and by the time the little procession had reached the market-house on Main street, some four or five blocks from the landing, the crowd had swelled to several hundred, mostly composed of colored persons, old and young, of both sexes.
Six marines with fixed bayonets marched in front, the President, with Admiral Porter, in full uniform, on his right, Tad holding to his left hand, Capt. Penrose and Lieut. Carroll, following and four armed marines bringing up the rear.
The President was dressed in black. His tall form, surmounted with a high silk hat,
TOWERED ABOVE HIS COMPANIONS,
And was a conspicuous sight for everyone. The usual solemn, careworn expression on his face had given place to one of pleasure, and perhaps of amusement, at his unique reception, and the manner in which the crowd were expressing their joy at his coming.
Clearing the street and placing our escort of 10 cavalrymen in rear of the marines (they were the troop of cavalry referred to by Admiral Porter in his history of the visit, published in his History of the U. S. Navy, page 799, as having been sent by Gen. Weitzel, at his request for an escort,) we took the advance and escorted the little procession to the mansion of Jefferson Davis, the Headquarters of Gen. Weitzel.* The march was by the way of Main and Franklin streets to Governor, to Twelfth, and out Twelfth to the corner of Clay street.
At every step the crowd increased in numbers, filling the sidewalks and street, entirely surrounding our party and filling the air with their cheering and cries of joy. They came from cross-streets and alleys, from every direction in the city, and so rapidly did they gather they seemed to spring from the very earth, and by the time we reached the Davis mansion the majority of the colored population of the city were paying homage, in their way, to Mr. Lincoln.
Nor were the freedmen alone in welcoming him. After entering the city, one of Gen. Weitzel’s first acts was to issue an order requesting the citizens “remain for the present quietly within their houses.” This order was generally observed, but the shouting and cheering announcing the presence of the President brought many loyal whites to the sidewalks, anxious for a sight of the deliverer from rebel oppression.
While a few raised their hats or waved their handkerchiefs in respectful recognition, many of them joined the fast-increasing crowd as it swept onward up the street, and united their voices in one continuous shout of welcome and thanksgiving.
It was a long and tiresome march of nearly two miles, and although the President removed his overcoat and carried it on his arm, he seemed to feel the heat and dust to a great degree and frequently raised his hat to wipe away the big drops of perspiration from his forehead.
Upon reaching the Jeff Davis mansion, the President was met by Gen. Weitzel and conducted through the hall into his office, the reception-room of its late occupant,
THE FLEEING PRESIDENT
of the Confederacy. Dismounting and entering the house, we passed into the parlor and found everything as Mrs. Davis had left it when she departed for Danville, the week before. None of the furniture had been removed, Mrs. Davis probably having confidence that it would be safe in the hands of the “Yankee vandals,” if they should capture the city. Her card-receiver stood on the parlor table, and among others was the card of “Mrs. Wm. H. Smith, Alabama,” the wife of a member of the Confederate Congress, and a former member of the United States House of Representatives.
Accepting the invitation of a member of Gen. Weitzel’s staff, we repaired to the dining-room, where on a handsome sideboard stood cut-glass decanters filled with choice liquors of various kinds, a portion of the abundant supply left by Jefferson D. for future use on his return from the hasty trip he was taking further south for his health.
With a glass of excellent old sherry wine we drank the health of President Lincoln, Gen. Grant, and the grand old Army of the Potomac, and then repaired to the hall to await the appearance of the President, in hopes of being honored with an introduction to him. We had not long to wait, for after an interview with General Weitzel, lasting perhaps a half-hour, the President appeared, when Gen. Devens presented us to him.
I was the last one to be honored, and I shall never forget the
LOOK OF GENUINE PLEASURE
on the President’s face as he warmly shook my hand and said:
“I am very happy to meet you.”
There was no reception held at this time, as has been stated, the four officers comprising our party and the staff officers being mentioned being the ones who were present and introduced.
The three-seated open carriage of Gen. Weitzel, drawn by four horses, was in waiting, in which Tad had been seated for sometime on the back seat, the center of attraction of the mass of colored people, old and young, of both sexes, who, with a sprinkling of white people, filled the street from curb to curb, many of whom pressed around the carriage, clamoring to shake his hand, and when the President appeared Tad was holding an informal reception of his own.
The appearance of the President was the signal for such a burst of enthusiasm as is seldom witnessed. Almost frantic with joy at beholding the man who had given them their freedom, the colored people expressed their delight in every conceivable manner. Hats, handkerchiefs and bonnets were waved and thrown high in the air, while the cheering and cries of “God bress Massa Linkim,” “God bress Massa Abram,” “Praise de good Lawd fo’ dis day,” and like expressions were almost deafening.
The President raised his hat in acknowledgment of the compliment paid him, and stepping into the carriage, attended by Gens. Weitzel, Devens, and Shepley, and Admiral Porter, surrounded by the crowd, started on his ride around the city. A squadron of colored cavalry rode in advance, and our party, with several other officers who had learned of the presence of the President in the city, fell in immediately in the rear of the carriage, and accompanied the distinguished party on their ride.
Our road to the Capitol took us past St. Paul’s P. E. Church, situated on Ninth street near Broad, remarkable for its symmetrical spire and for being the church in which Mr. Davis and the elite of the city were worshipping two days before, when he was notified by telegram from Gen. Lee that the city must be evacuated. In this neighborhood, and on the streets adjacent to the Capitol Park, were situated Richmond’s
WEALTHY AND FASHIONABLE HOMES;
but as we rode slowly by there were no signs of life within them, the blinds being closed or the shades drawn down, and not a lady’s face was to be seen.
Upon reaching the Capitol, from whose flagstaff waved the Stars and Stripes in place of the stars and bars, the party halted for a few minutes to enjoy the panorama spread before them, and also to admire the “Washington Group” of statuary in the park, the chief figure being Crawford’s equestrian statue of Washington, surrounded at the base by figures in bronze of Patrick Henry, George Mason, Thomas Jefferson, Gov. Thomas Nelson, jr., Andrew Lewis, and Chief Justice John Marshall.
At our feet lay the park, littered with the furniture of many families who had been made homeless by the fire, and who had been unable to find shelter elsewhere; eastward the blackened walls and smoking ruins of the business potion of the city, extending to the river, which, glistening in the sunlight, threads its way eastward until lost to sight behind the battle-crowned heights at Drewry’s Bluff, and in the distance the battlefields of Fair Oaks, Mechanicsville, etc.
While halting here a gray-haired darky, bent with age and dressed in rags, approached me, and taking off his cap, and holding up some Confederate money, said:
“Mass, tell me wot dis yer money is wof now.”
I told him that it was only good to build a fire with, and asked him how much he had.
“I don’ knnow’ zactly,” he repled. “’Bout two or tree t’ousan’ dollars, I rekon.”
As as he turned away with tears in his eyes he murmured:
“W’at is a poor old darky gwine ter do for suffin’ to eat?”
From the Capitol we rode to Main street within a block of the U. S. Custom-house, built of granite, and the only building unburned on that street between Eighth and Fourteenth streets; thence down to Cary street and around the canal basin, where the standing walls of the burned tobacco and cotton warehouses and flouring mills stood, monuments to the criminal action of the Confederate authorities, who, to keep a few dollars’ worth of cotton and tobacco from falling into the hands of the Yankees, were willing to assume the responsibility of
DESTROYING THE CITY.
The tobacco was still smoking and filled the air with its pungent odor, and the loose tobacco, manufactured and natural leaf, that littered the streets, was all that was left of the many thousand pounds thrown into the street from the burning buildings, and confiscated to their own use, by the mob.
No stop was made at Castle Thunder, located on Cary street, between Seventeenth and Eighteenth streets, which had been used as a prison for confining deserters from both armies, but was now empty. Libby Prison was situated at the corner of Cary and Twentieth streets, and here quite a stop was made while the party viewed the building and surroundings.
About 3,000 Confederate prisoners filled the building, so lately occupied by the boys in blue; and when the Presidential party halted in front of the building, they crowded at the windows, each one of them anxious to get a look at the man they had been taught to revile and hate. The President gave evidence of his pleasure that the prisoners were clothed in the Confederate gray, while the guards at the doors wore the Union blue.
The drive extended to the corner of Main and Twentieth streets, one block from Libby Prison, the residence of Mr. Van Lew, * a wealthy Northern man, where Gen. Streight was concealed for many days after he escaped from Libby Prison; to the “Old Stone House” on Main street, one block above, the oldest house in the city, and at one time the Headquarters of Gen. Washington; from thence to St. John’s Church, in which, in 1775, Patrick Henry electrified the people with his immortal speech, “Give me liberty, of give me death”; returning to the Davis mansion after a drive of perhaps an hour, still accompanied by the happy enthusiastic crowd.
Judge Campbell and Gen. R. H. Anderson (Confederates) were in waiting, and were at once granted a private interview with the President, after which Mr. Lincoln held na informal reception, and shook hands with a large number of Union officer and some of the prominent citizens who had remained in the city.
At 6:30 o’clock, escorted by a company of cavalry, and the crowd of negroes who still filled the streets, Gen. Weitzel drove the President and Admiral Porter to “The Rocketts,” where they entered the Admiral’s barge, which was in waiting, and amidst renewed cheering and waving of handkerchiefs, were rowed to the Malvern, which had reached the city and was anchored in the stream. To the credit of Richmond be it said, nothing occurred to mar the pleasure of the President’s visit;
NOT AN OFFENSIVE REMARK
was heard, not a disloyal sign was manifested, and one of the happiest days in his eventful career had passed into history.
The Malvern lay at anchor in the middle of the stream during the night, as a matter of safety to Mr. Lincoln; and the next morning Gen. Weitzel and Gen. Anderson called by appointment, and had an interview with him relative to the meeting of the Virginia Legislature; after which the Presidential party returned to City Point, arriving there soon after noon.
On page 727, Vol. 4, Battles and Leaders of the Civil War, published by the Century Co., appears a communication from Capt. Thomas Thatcher Graves, now living in Providence, R. I., relative to the President’s visit to Richmond which is totally at variance with the facts of the case. Here it is:
“Upon my saluting him, he said: ‘Is it far to President Davis’s house?’ I accompanied him to the house, which was occupied by Gen. Weitzel as Headquarters. The President had arrived about 9 o'clock, at the landing called ‘The Rocketts,’ upon Admiral Porter's flag-ship, the Malvern, and as soon as the boat was made fast, without ceremony, he walked on shore, and started off uptown. As soon as Admiral Porter was informed of it he ordered a
GUARD OF MARINES
to follow as escort; but in the walk of about two miles they never saw him, and he was directed by negroes.
“At the Davis house, he was shown into the reception-room, with the remark that the housekeeper had said that the room was President Davis's office. As he seated himself he remarked, ‘This must have been President Davis's chair,’ and, crossing his legs he looked far off with a serious, dreamy expression. At length he asked me if the housekeeper was in the house. Upon learning that she had left he jumped up and said, with a boyish manner, ‘Come let's look at the house!’
“We went pretty much over it; I retailed all that the housekeeper had told me, and he seemed interested in everything. As we came down the staircase General Weitzel came, in breathless haste, and at once President Lincoln's face lost its boyish expression as he realized that duty must be resumed. Soon afterward Judge Campbell, General Anderson (Confederates), and others called and asked for an interview with the President. It was granted, and took place in the parlor with closed doors.”
The statement of Capt. Graves, in the same article, that Gen. Weitzel sent his pocketbook to Gen. Lee after his return to Richmond, with the generous request that he would help himself to its contents (the pocketbook was to be returned), and that Gen. W. H. F. Lee presented the book to his father kneeling at his feet, and that Gen. Lee courteously declined the offer, makes a fitting
FINISH TO THE ROMANCE,
of which the author is the hero.
Due allowance should be made for a statement made from memory alone after a lapse of over 25 years, but there is no excuse for picturing the President as being devoid of common sense, and insulting an Admiral in the navy, whose guest he was, and who was responsible for his safety, by rudely leaving his protection without ceremony, and wandering through the streets of a hostile city alone and unprotected, a sining mark for an assassin’s bullet.
Following is an extract from the New York Times of April 8, 1865, dated Richmond, Tuesday, April 4, 1865:
“The most interesting event to be recorded to-day is the visit of the President to Richmond. Mr. Lincoln, accompanied by his young son and Admiral Porter, arrived at the Rocketts at 2 P.M., in the Malvern, and proceeded at once to the mansion of Ex-President Davis, now the headquarters of Maj.-Gen. Weitzel.
“The arrival of the President soon got noised abroad, and the colored population turned out in great force, and for a time blockaded the quarters of the President, cheering vociferously. After a short interval the President held a levee – Gen. Devens introducing all the officers present. The President shook hands with each, and received the hearty congratulations of all.”
“The Presidential, party attended by Gens. Weitzel, Devens, Shepley, and a brilliant staff of officers, then made a tour round the city – drove rapidly round the capitol – stopping for a few moments to admire Crawford's magnificent statue of Washington, in the grounds of the capitol, and returned to Gen. Weitzel's headquarters at 5:30.
The President and party left Richmond at 6:30 P.M. The following officers attached to the Army of the Potomac were the first to arrive in Richmond, yesterday, belonging to that army: Lieut. Thos. P. Fuller, Schenectady, N.Y., A.Q.M., City Point; Capt P.F. Talbot, C.S., Dep’t, Field Hospitals, A. of P.; Capt. J.H. Woodward, Gen. Meade’s Headquarters, A. of P., and Lieut. Geo. T. Dudley, Headquarters Engineer Brigade, City Point. – R. D. FRANCIS, Correspondent.”