Sydney (Australia) Morning Herald, 6/29/1865, p. 3, c. 1
The New York papers supply numerous incidents in regard to the occupation of Richmond and Petersburg. One correspondent, writing on April 6th from the former city, says: -
In St. Paul's Church, which stands on Ninth-street, next to the site of the War Department building, President Davis was sitting at the time General Lee's telegram announcing the turning of the Confederate right on the White Oak Road was received. The clergyman had nearly finished his sermon when an orderly entered the church, passed straight to the President's pew, and handed to him the fatal dispatch. Mr. Davis immediately proceeded to the War Department, thence to the Capitol, and thence to the Richmond and Danville Railroad depot, where he made the necessary preparations for the conveyance of his family to a place of safety. He remained in the city until near nightfall, when he left in the 5.30 train. Much of his household and personal property was sent away several weeks since, and when he took his final departure from Richmond he had very little baggage with him.
The success of the Federals on their left wing was made known to the entire population of Richmond within an hour from the time that Mr. Davis received the news, and from this moment until the occupation of the city by the Federal soldiery, incessant and indescribable confusion prevailed. During the forenoon of Sunday the town had been unusually quiet, the movement of scattered detachments of troops alone marring the stillness of the day. A little after noon, people began to congregate in the streets, and knots grew rapidly in all the corners, crossings, and side walks. Soon carts, trucks, drays, hayricks, ambulances, army wagons, vehicles in short of all descriptions, loaded with household goods and Government stores, began to pour out of the alleys and by-ways into the main thoroughfares, and even toward the Southside, the Government wagons proceeding directly to the Danville depot. The alarm spread, and thousands of excited individuals, with armfuls of property of all portable sorts, rushed headlong toward the vital avenue of escape. These were the persons who had determined to cast their fortunes with the Confederate Government, and hoped to save something, if only a little, from the general wreck. Others took the matter more coolly; unable or unwilling to move, or having nothing to save, they preferred to trust to the mercies of the Northern soldiery. All that hot Sunday afternoon, the streets were filled with gangs of negroes, carrying bundles and boxes, articles of every imaginable character that might be transported on the shoulders or heads of men, rushing hither and thither, and adding to the general tremendous confusion by an incessant chorus of witless yells and outcries. The better class of the Richmond white population acted with what seemed, under the circumstances, extraordinary calmness, for although they had expected the evacuation, they had, one and all, fondly hoped, even against hope, that they might be spared the last crushing humiliation of giving up the city their friends and brethren in the trenches had so long and gallantly protected. Nobody went to bed on Sunday night. The streets were filled with masses of armed men, with long lines of Government waggons, with hurrying citizens and laboring negroes, while the tumult was incessant. Long trains were constantly departing over the Danville Road, and the shrill shriek of the locomotive whistle was almost continuous from night until morning. At the Commissary Depot, situated at the head of the Government Dock, heavy detachments of men were hard at work from 2 o'clock on Sunday afternoon until 6 o'clock on Monday morning, filling hundreds upon hundreds of Government waggons with the stores provided for the great armies of Lee; and a throng of men and women, carrying baskets, pots, pans, and utensils of all sorts, surrounded the buildings, waiting in frantic eagerness for the signal to help themselves. The banks were open all night, and crowded with depositors, anxiously waiting their turn to withdraw their species and closely guarded vans were loaded, both here and at the treasury building, with the government bullion, to be transported over the Danville-road. Millions of dollars in Confederate and State notes were cast into the streets cut to pieces by order of the government officials and bank directors; while bales of unsigned notes were scattered broadcast all about the treasury building. There was nothing like the indiscriminate plundering which might have been expected in a city left to the care of its more lawless population.
The Confederate authorities adopted one very wise precaution against robbery and pillage. They effectually prevented general drunkenness and riot by destroying all the commissary whisky in the city. At the depot in the government dock 2000 barrels were turned in the river early on the morning of Monday; and at other places great quantities of liquor were thrown upon the ground.
The President of the Federal States is still here, occupying the residence of President Davis. One of his first acts was to pass into the presidential reception room and seat himself in the reception chair, where, surrounded by Federal officers, and the doors guarded by negro soldiers, he made himself at home, retailing, I am informed, several choice anecdotes and characteristic stories descriptive of the changed condition of affairs. Late in the afternoon he drove out and made the tour of Capitol Square, accompanied by a bodyguard of negro troops. Afterwards he held a levee at President Davis' mansion, and centered upon such of the populace as desired it the honor of "shaking hands." It is hardly necessary for me to comment upon the singular lack of breeding and official dignity displayed by Mr. Lincoln in posting down to Richmond immediately upon its abandonment, to gratify his morbid curiosity by gazing upon the barren fruits of his army's victory, and to gloat over the downfall of the "capital of the rebellion." On April 5, Judge Campbell (who was recently brought prominently before the public attention by reason of his connection with the Fortress Monroe peace conference) called on Mr. Lincoln, escorted by General Weitzel, in order to discuss the peace question. What was said or done I do not know, further than that the President received Mr. Campbell kindly, and indulged in a long conversation with him.
It is due to the officers of the colored troops to say that they were firm and persistent in their efforts to keep order among their soldiers. A special guard was placed about the house of the wife of General Lee, that lady being an invalid, and unable to accompany the families of the government officials in the retreat. I mention this as being one bright spot in the dark page of the war.
Black soldiers alone garrison the city. General Weitzel, their commander, also commanding the port. General Shepley, who was placed in authority at first, has been removed for some cause not stated. Pontoon bridges have been thrown across the James in place of those burned by the Confederates.
As an instance of Yankee enterprise, I may mention that the very first number of the Richmond Whig issued under the regime contained the advertisements of A. T. Stewart and Co., the well-known New York merchants, as also that of a New York clothing firm. There is a great demand for newspapers here, and the Whig, although printed on the same dingy paper as heretofore, is eagerly purchased. Indeed, that paper advertises for "15 or 20 newsboys" to sell the paper in the army.
One thing additional I may say. The work of dismantling Richmond was in progress during the whole of six weeks before the evacuation; and some of the more valuable governmental documents was determined upon. Mr. Davis' family did not all leave the city until Sunday; a part, however, went to North Carolina last week.