Boston Journal, 4/10/1865, p. 4. Reprinted in Littell's Living Age, 4/22/1865.
[Richmond, Va., April 4, 1865]
Correspondence of the Boston Journal.
THE PRESIDENT'S ENTRY INTO RICHMOND.
I was standing upon the bank of the river, viewing the scene of desolation, when a boat pulled by twelve sailors came up stream. It contained President Lincoln and his son, Admiral Porter, Capt. Penrose of the army, Capt. A. H. Adams of the navy, Lieut. W. W. Clemens of the signal corps. Somehow the negroes on the bank of the river ascertained that the tall man wearing a black hat was President Lincoln. There was a sudden shout. An officer who had just picked up fifty negroes to do work on the dock, found himself alone. They left work, and crowded round the President. As he approached I said to a coloured woman, -
"There is the man who made you free."
"That is President Lincoln."
"Dat President Linkum?"
She gazed at him a moment, clapped her hands, and jumped straight up and down, shouting "Glory, glory, glory!" till her voice was lost in the universal cheer.
There was no carriage near, so the President, leading his son, walked three-quarters of a mile up to Gen. Weitzel's headquarters – Jeff Davis's mansion. What a spectacle it was! Such a hurly-burly – such wild, indescribable ecstatic joy I never witnessed. A coloured man acted as guide. Six sailors, wearing their round blue caps and short jackets and bagging pants, with navy carbines, was the advance guard. Then came the President and Admiral Porter, flanked by the officers accompanying him, and the correspondent of The Journal, then six more sailors with carbines – twenty of us all told – amid a surging mass of men, women and children, black, white, and yellow, running, shouting, dancing, swinging their caps, bonnets and handkerchiefs. The soldiers saw him and swelled the crowd, cheering in wild enthusiasm. All could see him, he was so tall, so conspicuous.
One coloured woman, standing in a doorway, as the President passed along the sidewalk, shouted, "Thank you, dear Jesus, for this! Thank you, Jesus!" Another standing by her side was clapping her hands and shouting, "Bless de Lord!"
A coloured woman snatched her bonnet from her head whirled it in the air, screaming with all her might, "God bless you, Massa Linkum!"
A few white women looking out from the houses waved their handkerchief. One lady in a large and elegant building looked awhile, and then turned away her head as if it were a disgusting sight.
President Lincoln walked in silence, acknowledging the salutes of officers and soldiers and of the citizens, black and white! It was the man of the people among the people. It was the great deliverer, meeting the delivered. Yesterday morning the majority of the thousands who crowded the streets and hindered our advance were slaves. Now they were free, and beheld him who had given them their liberty. Gen. Shepley met the President in the street, and escorted him to Gen. Weitzel's quarters. Major Stevens, hearing that the President was on his way, suddenly summoned a detachment of the Massachusetts 4th cavalry, and cleared the way.
After a tedious walk, the mansion of Jeff Davis was reached. The immense crowd swept round the corner of the street and packed the space in front. Gen. Weitzel received the President at the door. Cheer upon cheer went up from the excited multitude, two-thirds of whom were coloured.
The officers who had assembled were presented to the President in the reception room of the mansion.
Judge Campbell, once on the Supreme bench of the United States, who became a traitor, came in and had a brief interview with the President in the drawing-room. Other citizens called – those who have been for the Union through all the war.
The President then took a ride through the city, accompanied by Admiral Porter, Gens. Shepley, Weitzel, and other officers. Such is the simple narrative of this momentous event; but no written page or illuminated canvas can give the reality of the event – the enthusiastic bearing of the people – the blacks and poor whites who have suffered untold horrors during the war, their demonstrations of pleasure, the shouting, dancing, the thanksgivings to God, the mention of the name of Jesus – as if President Lincoln were next to the son of God in their affections – the jubilant cries, the countenances beaming with unspeakable joy, the tossing up of caps, the swinging of arms of a motley crowd – some in rags, some barefoot, some wearing pants of Union blue, and coats of Confederate gray, ragamuffins in dress, through the hardships of war, but yet of stately bearing – men in heart and soul – free men henceforth and forever, their bonds cut asunder in an hour – men from whose limbs the chains fell yesterday morning, men who through many weary years have prayed for deliverance – who have asked sometimes if God were dead – who, when their children were taken from them and sent to the swamps of South Carolina and the cane brakes of Louisiana, cried to God for help and cried in vain; who told their sorrows to Jesus and asked for help, but who had no helper – men who have been whipped, scourged, robbed, imprisoned, for no crime. All of these things must be kept in remembrance if we would have the picture complete.
No wonder that President Lincoln, who has a child's heart, felt his soul stirred; that the tears almost came to his eyes as he heard the thanksgivings to God and Jesus, and the blessings uttered for him from thankful hearts. They were true, earnest, and heartfelt expressions of gratitude to God. There are thousands of men in Richmond to-night who would lay down their lives for President Lincoln – their great deliverer, their best friend on earth. He came among them unheralded, without pomp or parade. He walked through the streets as if he were only a private citizen, and not the head of a mighty nation. He came not as a conqueror, not with bitterness in his heart, but with kindness. He came as a friend, to alleviate sorrow and suffering – to rebuild what has been destroyed.