From the Century Magazine, Vol. 40, Issue 2 (June 1890) p. 307
Lincolns Visit to Richmond.
IN their chapter on “Lincoln in Richmond” (see THE CENTURY MAGAZINE for December, 1889), Messrs. Nicolay and Hay summarize as follows the conflicting testimony in regard to the manner in which the President reached the fallen capital:
There is great vagueness and even contradiction about the details of the trip. Admiral Porter states that he carried the President in his flag-ship, the Malvern, until she grounded, when he transferred the party to his barge with a tugboat to tow it and a small detachment of marines on board. Another account states that the President proceeded in the steamer River Queen until the transfer to the barge; also that another transport, having a four-horse field wagon and a squadron of cavalry, followed for the service of the President. Still a third ac- count states that the party went in the admirals barge the whole distance, as affording greater safety against danger from any torpedoes which might not yet have been re- moved. The various accounts agree that obstructions, consisting of rows of piling, sunken hulks, and the debris of the destroyed Confederate vessels, were encountered, which only the tug and barge were able to pass.
Major Charles B. Penrose of the United States army writes to the editor of THE CENTURY that he was the only staff officer with Mr. Lincoln during that trip, having been sent by Secretary Stanton under the fol. lowing order, which by the Secretary’s mistake was dated March 24, instead of March 23, the day the presidential party left Washington:
WAR DEPARTMENT, WASHINGTON CITY, March 24, 1865. CAPTAIN PENROSE: You will proceed with the steamer River Queen, having the President and Mrs. Lincoln and such persons on board as they may direct, from Washington to City Point, there remaining until the President desires to return to Washington, and will accompany them back. Your duty will be to see that the President and his family are properly supplied with every accommodation for their comfort and safety. You are authorized to make any needful requisitions upon officers of the Quartermaster and Commissary service, and will see that meals are provided and suitable attendance. You will report to the President and take his directions from time to time. Yours, etc., EDWIN M. STANTON, Secretary of War.
Captain Penrose prepared most of the despatches that were given to the press, for which reason he kept a skeleton diary from which to refresh his mind in narrating the experiences of those seventeen days. The entries relating directly to the visit to Richmond are the following, the words in brackets having been added to make the original more intelligible:
April 4th, Tuesday. Visit Richmond – Take River Queen, Columbus, with horses, Malvern and Bat – Reach obstructions at Drewrys Bluff – Go on in barge of Admiral Porter [towed at first by tug] – Admiral Farragut at the obstruction in the Allison [rebel flag-of-truce boat] – Tug aground – Proceed in twelve-oared barge – Land near Libby Prison – Captain Adams, Admiral Porter, myself, and Signal Officer [Lieutenant Clemmens] and the President, with ten sailors, march through the streets to General Weitzel’s headquarters in Jeff. Davis’s house – Stay all night on board Malvern.
April 5th, Wednesday. Leave by half-past nine – Towed in barge [by tug] – Row through Dutch Gap Canal about one hundred yards, four feet of water [in channel] – Tug thirty minutes in coming around – Visit rebel ram Texas, then in transit to Norfolk – A strong boat.
The Bat was their naval escort from Washington. After passing the pontoon bridge at Aikens Landing the captain of the River Queen requested Captain Penrose to ask the President to take a seat upon the upper deck, fearing they might run upon some of the torpedoes with which the river had been obstructed, and there would be less danger on the upper deck than on the lower. The captain of the boat and Captain Penrose took position in the bow of the boat to assist the lookout in discovering any obstructions which might endanger the vessel. In this way they steamed slowly up to Drewry’s Bluff. It was the intention on the 4th of April to take through to Richmond all the boats enumerated in the notes, but at the obstructions they found the way blocked by the rebel boat Allison, on which Admiral Farragut had come down from Richmond to meet the President; Farragut, who was on leave of absence, had gone into Richmond with General Weitzel. Owing to some defect in the machinery, the Allison at the obstructions had swung across the opening in the piles, and was held in place by the current. A tug mentioned had been used at City Point to carry the President back and forth from the River Queen, and Mr. Lincoln had alluded to it as his buggy. At the obstructions a guard of twenty or thirty marines was put aboard the tug. After the latter had passed through, the President insisted that the tug should assist the Allison; in doing so she got aground, which was the cause of their having to pull up to the city with oars. By night, however, the steamers had all arrived at Rocketts, and the cavalry, which had been intended originally as an escort to the President in the streets of Richmond, was posted as a guard at the head of the wharf.
The coming of the President on the 4th of April was so well known in Richmond that the “Whig” of that date announced: “We learn that it is not improbable his Excellency President Lincoln will reach the city this afternoon.”
Major Penrose says he has often seen it stated that Mr. Lincoln was accompanied to Richmond by his young son Tad, when in fact he had returned to Washington with his mother on, the day the army moved from City Point, and did not come back to the James River until the morning of the 6th of April, on which day the President, remaining at City Point, sent the River Queen back to Richmond with a party consisting of Mrs. Lincoln, Tad, Secretary James Harlan, wife and daughter, Attorney-General James Speed, Judge W. T, Otto, and Senator Charles Sumner.
After the assassination Major Penrose accompanied the remains of President Lincoln to Springfield as executive officer of the funeral train.