From the Richmond Whig, 4/6/1865
THE EVACUATION - THE CONFLAGRATION - THE SURRENDER - SCENES.
Though we have twice dwelt upon the subject of the evacuation of Richmond and the subsequent dreadful conflagration, it is an exhaustless _____, and so long as we can furnish new facts in connection with it, we do not fear wearying our readers.
For a month past the Confederates have been evacuating the city with all the speed and means they could command, but some how the people refused to believe that removal meant evacuation, and all declared that the measures were only precautionary. Matters went on in this manner until on Sunday, the Confederates hurrying away every species of property, the people blindly refusing to believe that the city was to be given up and clinging to their Confederate shinplasters as if they were ____ of worth.
Sunday morning General Lee telegraphed to Davis giving an account of the general attack upon his lines; stating that the lines had been pierced in many places, and that unless he could re-establish them Richmond must be given up that night. His tone was, for the first time since the war, despondent; he said his men were not coming up to their mark.
At 11 o'clock that morning he telegraphed that all efforts to re-establish his lines had been utterly unsuccessful. Immediately began among the officials in Richmond a scurry and panic. Still the majority of the people were in the dark, and, refusing to believe their eyes, so remained, many of them, till night. The gold and silver coin belonging to the Louisiana banks, and recently appropriated by the Confederate Congress, was to run down to the Danville train with hot haste. So also was the specie of the Richmond banks. Then the programme for the departure of the officials was arranged. A number of trains were to leave during the evening; still there was not room for all who thought it desireable to get away. Davis was to depart at 7 o'clock, P. M. Breckinridge elected to go off on horseback, with the last of the army, on Monday morning.
At the request of the Mayor, a meeting of the Council was held Sunday evening, at 4 o'clock, to consult as to what was best to be done under the circumstances. Governor Smith, being invited to attend this meeting, almost convinced the Council that the Confederate arms had been victorious at Petersburg, and that Richmond was not to be evacuated. He, however, managed to become better informed some hours afterwards, and ran off on horseback some time during the night.
The Council, after much discussion, passed a resolution appointing committees for each of the three wards, who should, when the fact that the city was about to be abandoned should be ascertained, proceed to destroy all the alcoholic liquors in their respective wards, giving the Council's receipt for the same, to be paid for hereafter. The object of this step is obvious - to prevent disorder resulting from the intoxication of the troops of either army, and of the evil-disposed among the citizens. The order of the Council was only partially executed, but there is no doubt that much evil was arrested.
After dark the Council held another conference, and this time, being assured by the Secretary of War that the Confederate pickets would be withdrawn from the Richmond front at three o'clock Monday morning, and that it was calculated that the city would be evacuated about night, it was determined that a committee of prominent citizens should attend the Mayor with a flag of truce to the intermediate line of fortifications, and that there he might hand over the city to the General commanding the Army of the James. Judge Lyons, Judge Meredith, and several members of the council attended the Mayor. The letter prepared by the Mayor to be handed to the Union General was as follows:
RICHMOND, Monday April 3d, 1865.
To the General Commanding the United States Army in front of Richmond:
General: The army of the Confederate Government having abandoned the city of Richmond, I respectfully request that you will take possession of it with an organized force, to preserve order ad protect the women and children and property.
JOSEPH MAYO, Mayor.
This deputation started to the front before daylight.
SCENES IN THE CITY DURING MONDAY NIGHT.
In the meantime a saternalia had begun in the city. About dark the government commissaries began the destruction of an immense quantity of whisky and brandy stored in the large building formerly Wallace's wholesale grocery store, northwest corner of Pearl and Cary streets. Several hundred soldiers and citizens gathered in front of the building, and contrived to save much of thee liquor in pitchers, bottles and basins. This liquor was not slow in manifesting itself. The crowd became a mob, and began to howl. Soon other crowds had collected in front of other government warehouses. At some, attempts were made to distribute supplies, but so frenzied had the mob become that the officers in charge in many cases had to flee for their lives.
All through the night crowds of men, women and children traversed the streets, rushing from one store-house to another, loading themselves with all kinds of supplies, to be thrown away immediately on something more tempting offering itself. Men could be met rolling hogsheads of bacon, molasses, sugar, barrels of liquor, bushels of tea and coffee; others had wheelbarrows loaded with all manner of goods, while others again had gone into the plundering business in a large way, and were operating with bags, furniture wagons and drays. This work went on fast and furious until after midnight, about which time large numbers of straggling Confederate soldiers made their appearance on the streets, and immediately set about robbing the principal stores n Main street. The scenes that then followed have already been described. There was a regular sack.
THE ORDER TO FIRE THE CITY.
About 1 o'clock Monday morning the Mayor received positive information that an order had been issued from Ewell's headquarters to fire the four principal tobacco warehouses of the city, namely: Public Warehouse, situated at the head of the basin, near the Petersburg Railroad depot; Shockoe Warehouse, situated near the centre of the city, side by side with the far-famed Gallego flour mills; Mayo's Warehouse, at the southern extremity of 14th street, and on the hither end of Mayo's bridge; and Dibrell's Warehouse, on Cary street, between 21st and 22d streets, and a square lot below the Libby prison. Knowing that the burning of these immense buildings, situated as they were, involved the destruction of at least the business portion of the city, the Mayor forthwith dispatched a committee of gentlemen to remonstrate wit the Confederate authorities against the execution of such wanton vandalism. The committee, consisting of Mr. James A. Scott and others, were referred to Major Melton, one of a large number of Adjutant and Inspector -Generals who hung around the War Department, to whom, it appeared, had been entrusted the work of the incendiary. Melton would hear nothing on the subject, and characterized the statement that burning the warehouses would destroy the city as "a cowardly pretext on the part of the citizens, trumped up to endeavor to save their property for the Yankees." There was nothing left for the citizens to do but to submit. Resistance was thought of, but the Confederate authorities had guarded against such an event by holding in the city, to execute their barbarous work, two large battalions of Southern troops, every man of whom hated Virginia and Virginians, and longed for nothing more than to see the last house in the city a ruin.
FLIGHT OF THE CONFEDERATES.
Two divisions - Kershaw's and Custis Lee's - with several light batteries, were holding the lines below the city. Gradually during the night these troops were withdrawn by brigades. The first movements were orderly enough, but towards morning the retreat became a wild flight. It was one of the ghastliest sights of this awful night to see long lines of men, flitting like unholy shades through the crowded streets, their forms made hideous by the glare of the incendiary fires that already began to glow. This train of fugitives marched on unbroken up Main street, down 14th street, until broad daylight broke up the scene. ___ ____ ___ last passed over the bridge ____ already ____ _____ _____ _____ than an hour.
THE CITY FIRED.
The troops detailed to fire the warehouses bivouac around the doomed buildings, ready at a moment's notice to begin their work of evil. But before they received their order, some amateur incendiary fired a canal boat loaded with meat, which was lying in the Dock near Mayo's bridge. This was the first fire in the city, if we except the conflagration in the streets of all the papers, documents, &c., of the First and Second Auditors' offices, which took place on 9th street early Sunday night. The boat we have just mentioned fired two others, which swung under the bridge over the Dock and set in on fire, thereby nearly cutting off the retreat of five or six thousand Confederates. - About this time the Confederate gunboat Patrick Henry, lying in the river off Rocketts, was fired, and so after the order was issued to apply the torch to the warehouses. The order was executed with alacrity; nor did the ruffians confine themselves to the buildings in question. Getting a taste of incendiarism, the congenial work seemed to please them so much that they ran about setting fire to every house in the vicinity of the different warehouses. The incendiaries at Shockoe fired every house on Shockoe Slip, including Mr. De Voss' warehouse, where was stored a quantity of French tobacco. - There was a guard of French troops over this building, but they were driven off by the Confederates and threatened with death if they attempted to extinguish the flames. The torch was also applied to all the buildings recently in Confederate occupation, from the Tredegar works on the canal above the city to the navy yard at Rocketts - a distance of two miles - including the laboratories, artillery shops, arsenals, Franklin paper mill, Petersburg depot, all the Commissary and Quartermaster buildings on and near 14th street, Rahm's foundry, and other buildings and localities which we have heretofore mentioned. - By seven o'clock A. M. nearly the whole of the city south of Main street, between 8th and 15th streets and 20th and 23d streets was one great sea of flame.
It was part of the programme that Gary's cavalry should be the last Confederate troops to leave the lines below Richmond. They were to come stealthily on the city about daylight and catch up all stragglers and citizens that they could lay hold of and hurry them off with the army. This part of the plan was frustrated by the rapid advance of the Union forces. Gary passed up Main street not five minutes ahead of the Union column, and so far from dragging off others, be barely saved himself. - Mayo's bridge and the Danville depot were then all a blaze. Gary crossed the dock by the bridge at the southern terminus of 17th street, and then set fire to the structure. Two citizens, William J. Brown and Robert Allen, chancing to be in the neighborhood, rushed to the bridge and extinguished the flames before they had gained headway. While so engaged, they were fired upon by Gary's men, but fortunately, neither of them were struck. - Gary then sped away over Mayo's bridge, which was burning from end to end, and almost on the point of falling in.
THE MAYOR SURRENDERS THE CITY.
The flag-of-truce party attending the Mayor met the Union military authorities at the line of fortifications just beyond Tree Hill, near the junction of the Osborne turnpike and Newmarket road. The surrender was formally made, and steps were immediately taken to preserve order in the city, and it would have been done effectually but for the progress of the great fire then raging, which prevented anything being done until it could be gotten under. The populace, white and black, wild with excitement, were sacking every store on Main street. - The United States authorities at once set abut staying the ravages of the flames, and threw out parties to put a stop to the pillaging. By 3 o'clock, P. M., the fire was conquered, though not extinguished, and order was restored.
In previous notices of the conflagration we have mentioned that a large number of persons were burned to death; their number or identity will never be known. Children, old and infirm persons, and many persons under the influence of the liquor drank during the previous night's orgies, were the victims.
We have heard of no one being killed by the shell explosions at the Arsenal, but that hundreds were not slaughtered can only be accounted for by the fact that the Arsenal was under a steep hill which stood between it and the city on two sides. Messrs. Wm. Royster and A. Judson Crane were struck and knocked down by a fragment of shell while standing in Mr. Royster's porch, corner of 4th and Cary streets. Mr. Royster was severely injured about the abdomen. Mr. Crane received a contusion in the temple. A colored child, about seven years old, was knocked down on Mr. Crane's lot on Canal street, between 4th and 5th. There must have been many casualties and perhaps some deaths from this bombardment which we have not heard of. Not less than one hundred thousand shells exploded in the course of three or four hours, scattering their fragments thickly over acres of the city. Many pieces, weighing several pounds each, fell in the Capitol Square.
__ the ways of Providence are inscrutable. This firing of our goodly city would seem at first glance an unmitigated evil. But there is another view to be taken of it. It has had one certain good effect. If there lingered in the hearts of any of our people one spark of affection for the Davis dynasty, this ruthless, useless, wanton handing over to the flames their fair city, their homes and altars has extinguished it forever.