April 3, 1865: Fall of Richmond

Fall of Richmond

 

After all the blood shed to take Richmond its fall was anti-climactic.  Grant was moving his army in pursuit of Lee, and entry of Union troops was unopposed, the Confederate military and the civilian government having evacuated the city on the evening of April 2.  The mention of the fall of Richmond receives scant attention from Grant in his memoirs:

Soon after I left President Lincoln I received a dispatch from General Weitzel which notified me that he had taken possession of Richmond at about 8.15 o’clock in the morning of that day, the 3d, and that he had found the city on fire in two places. The city was in the most utter confusion. The authorities had taken the precaution to empty all the liquor into the gutter, and to throw out the provisions which the Confederate government had left, for the people to gather up. The city had been deserted by the authorities, civil and military, without any notice whatever that they were about to leave. In fact, up to the very hour of the evacuation the people had been led to believe that Lee had gained an important victory somewhere around Petersburg. 
Weitzel’s command found evidence of great demoralization in Lee’s army, there being still a great many men and even officers in the town. The city was on fire. Our troops were directed to extinguish the flames, which they finally succeeded in doing. The fire had been started by some one connected with the retreating army. All authorities deny that it was authorized, and I presume it was the work of excited men who were leaving what they regarded as their capital and may have felt that it was better to destroy it than have it fall into the hands of their enemy. Be that as it may, the National troops found the city in flames, and used every effort to extinguish them.

From the start of his Overland Campaign in the spring of 1864 Grant’s objective had been the destruction of Lee’s army, and that had not changed.

Published in: on April 3, 2015 at 5:30 am  Comments (1)  
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