H. H. Sturgis, “About the Burning of Richmond,” Confederate Veteran, Volume 17 (1909), p. 474



At the evacuation of Richmond I was on duty at the Soldiers’ Home, more generally known as the Crow’s Nest, in charge of Sergeant Crow. The Home was a stopping place for soldiers going on furloughs or returning to their commands, and also a place to keep any soldiers who were in Richmond without leave. Rations were furnished, and also guards for city police duty.

I returned from a trip as escort to Danville with some soldiers on Sunday morning and found that preparations were being made to evacuate the city. About 10 P.M. I was given the keys to a large tobacco warehouse with instructions to burn the tobacco, which was, I suppose, government property. Another soldier was detailed to assist me. We knocked in the heads of three hogsheads, pulled out the hands of tobacco, and my comrade shaved up some splinters and I struck the match and saw the fire well started. We went out and locked the door, returning the key to the officer in charge, from whom I had received it. The responsible source of the order I know not.

The city was in great confusion. No one seemed to be concerned about it. Barrels of whisky had been emptied into the street drains, while many dipped it from the gutters and drank it. After crossing the Mayo bridge, it seemed that the entire city was ablaze. The magnificent flouring mills, the Gallagher and the Haxall, were ablaze, and there was apparently no effort to extinguish the flames. No pen can adequately portray it. I don’t like to discuss it, and give the foregoing as record for history.


D. B. Sanford writes from Milledgeville, Ga.: “There seems to be some dispute as to what soldiers or command of soldiers was the last to leave Richmond on the morning of the 3d of April, 1865. My recollection is that Phillips’s Georgia Legion Infantry were the rear guard and the last soldiers to leave that city on that day. When this command crossed the bridge over the James River, the bridge was on fire in many places on each side, and we had to run with all our might and shinney from side to side of the bridge to keep from being burned to death. No other soldiers could have crossed this bridge after we did. This command left camp near Drury’s Bluff about twelve o’clock Sunday night, April 2, 1865, and reached Richmond a little after daylight Monday morning. I was captain of the Greene Rifles, Company A, Phillips’s Georgia Legion Infantry. Does any other old veteran remember differently?”

Go to top