SOPO Editor’s Note: As the country realized Petersburg, Virginia would be the scene of prolonged fighting, newspapers scrambled to acquaint readers with the city and its surroundings. The Inquirer even published a map of Petersburg on June 18, 1864, incorrectly showing its capture.
Sketch of Petersburg.
The last GAZETTEER1 account of this city says:—Petersburg, which is an exceedingly handsome and flourishing port town, as well as port of entry, of Dinwiddie county, Virginia, is situated on the right or south bank of the Appomattox River, at the crossing of the great Southern Railroad, at a distance of twenty-two miles south of Richmond, and ten miles from James River, at City Point, in latitude 87 14 north, longitude 77 20 west. In respect of population and commercial advantages, with facilities for a rapidly increasing business, it ranks as the third town in Virginia.
The town displays much architectural taste in the manner in which it is built, and also possessed several important public buildings. It contains numerous churches, in which several denominations are represented, vis:—two of the Methodist, two of the Episcopalian, two of the Presbyterian, one of the Baptist, and one of the Catholic, besides other places of worship, principally for colored people.
With these it has a number of cotton factories, three banks, two ropewalks, one woolen factory, one iron furnace and mills for almost every purpose of trade. It has also educational establishments, and, before the capture of the place, published three newspapers. The borough limits extend as far as the decayed village of Blandford, in Prince Georges county, which is stated to have been superior in many respects to Petersburg, which has quickly grown up, as it were, alongside of it.
Among the exceedingly interesting and pleasing picturesque ruins scattered over Virginia, the remains of Blandford’s once imposing church attract the attention of the traveler. A destructive conflagration occurred here in 1815, by which a vast deal of property, including four hundred houses, was consumed.
There is unlimited water power about Petersburg, as the ascent of the tide, becoming arrested by the falls directly above the town, affords extensive supply. Some enterprise has also been manifested by the construction of a canal around the falls, by which boats of a light draught can ascend the river for a distance of nearly one hundred miles.
The town can be approached by vessels of one hundred tons ascending the river, while those of a larger size are obliged to discharge at Waltham’s Landing, about six miles below, where the South Side Railroad has its eastern terminus, connected by the Appomattox Railroad with the mouth of the river and City Point, where vessels of large size are chiefly discharged. Some idea may be formed of its trade and industrial resources from the fact that from ten thousand to fifteen thousand hogsheads of tobacco are exported annually.2
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- SOPO Editor’s Note: I am no expert on antebellum gazetteers. If you know which gazetteer the Inquirer is referring to here, please Contact me. ↩
- “Sketch of Petersburg.” The Philadelphia Inquirer (Philadelphia, Pennsylvania), June 20, 1864, p. 8, col. 1-2 ↩