Editor’s Note: This article was transcribed by Brett Schulte.
The Surrender of Richmond
As we drove near the city, a deputation headed by Mr. Mayo, the mayor of Richmond, came to meet us and formally surrender the city. They expressed great surprise at the fine, well-groomed and well-fed horses of the officers and the style and completeness of all the equipments, which undoubtedly contrasted strangely with the half-starved hacks and dilapidated equipments and uniforms they had been accustomed to see in the ranks of the confederate army during the last year of the siege of Richmond. We received the old Virginia gentleman so pleasantly and kindly that he reported, on his return to his anxious compatriots who inquired what kind of people the Yankees were, that he had met “a company of perfect Chesterfields.”
As we entered the city itself, the whole colored population received us with shouts of welcome. The white population remaining were tired of the siege and thankful for our protection, after what they had suffered from the rebel troops, who had passed through in advance of us, had plundered the city of everything they could seize, and had set it on fire, determined to leave nothing for the Yankees but a heap of ashes in the place where Richmond had been. The houses of the more wealthy residents were closed, and their inmates, screening themselves from observation, only glanced at us from behind their lattices and blinds. But the joy of the poorer classes of whites, and the exultation of the colored people at their deliverance from rebel tyranny, was something very wonderful to see.
The greater part of Richmond was on fire. As we rode through the principal streets, the buildings on both sides were burning over an area larger than that embraced in the burned district at the great fire in Portland. The air was filled with sparks, mingled in places with exploding shells from the rebel ordnance stores. The streets were thronged with people carrying tobacco, flour, and all kinds of commodities from the burning houses, shops, and warehouses. The delighted negroes crowded about the horses of the body-guard, and welcomed their riders with every demonstration of joy, pressing upon them the tobacco which they were saving from the factories and storehouses so that when we arrived at the state-house every soldier of the provost guard had from five to fifty pounds of the best smoking tobacco hanging from his saddle.
In the park surrounding the state-house was a scene of the wildest confusion. The rebel cabinet had hastily removed the most valuable archives from the respective departments the night before our entry and the only time for making their hurried preparations had been since Sunday afternoon, when Jeff Davis was called out of church by the to him unexpected intelligence that the defenses of Richmond were to be abandoned, and the city evacuated by the troops during the night. The cabinet officers took away what papers they could, and the rest were scattered about the several departments, until our horses sank fetlock deep in unsigned confederate bonds and notes, letters and documents of every kind, which covered the ground for acres.1