Sunday, March 24, 2013

Lincoln arrives at City Point, Virginia, March 24, 1865

City Point, Virginia
Mrs. Julia Grant encouraged her husband, General Ulysses S. Grant, to extend an invitation for President Abraham Lincoln to visit Grant at his Army Headquarters in City Point, Virginia in March of 1865. 
Julia Grant
The President responded favorably to the “kind invitation”, and on March 23, Lincoln, his wife, Mary and their son Tad boarded the passenger ship “River Queen” in Washington, D.C. and would arrive at City Point the following evening at 9:00 p.m. 
Mary Lincoln
They would be away from Washington for two weeks.

Grant and staff members outside his headquarters at City Point
During the summer and fall of 1864, General Grant and members of his staff lived in tents situated on the grounds of a Virginia plantation. But as the war dragged on and the weather turned colder, the tents were taken down and replaced with 22 log cabins. The cabins were small and rustic, designed simply to protect the men from nature's elements. General Grant himself occupied a two-room cabin near the center of all the structures. He used the front room as his office and the back room as his private quarters. In December 1864, he brought his wife, Julia, and son, Jesse, to City Point to join him in his crowded quarters.
Union Troops outside Petersburg, Virginia
On March 25, the President, along with a large party of guests including officers and wives, 
boarded a train and headed toward Petersburg, Virginia.  Among the many sights Lincoln witnessed were hundreds of Confederate soldiers who had been taken prisoner during the Battle of Fort Stedman which had occurred early that morning. The president General Grant  toured the huge Union supply base there and traveled to the Union lines, then nearly encircling the Confederate stronghold at Petersburg.
Dead Confederate Soldier 
On March 28, the day’s activity centered around the River Queen anchored at City Point. General Ulysses S. Grant, General William T. Sherman, and Admiral David D. Porter sat down with the President onboard the River Queen.
Sherman, Grant, Lincoln and Porter aboard the River Queen
Grant and Sherman expressed the belief that at least one more major battle was necessary to dispose of the Army of Northern Virginia. The President voiced disappointment at this news stating that he had hoped no more bloodshed would be necessary. General Sherman made it clear that only the Confederate government could prevent further bloodshed by surrendering. 

A few days later, while sleeping on the River Queen, the president had the famous dream that foretold his assassination.  Later, the President recounted the dream to his wife and colleagues:
"I could not have been long in bed when I fell into a slumber, for I was weary. I soon began to dream. There seemed to be a death-like stillness about me. Then I heard subdued sobs, as if a number of people were weeping. I thought I left my bed and wandered downstairs. There the silence was broken by the same pitiful sobbing, but the mourners were invisible. . . . Determined to find the cause of a state of things so mysterious and so shocking, I kept on until I arrived at the East Room, which I entered. There I met with a sickening surprise. Before me was a catafalque, on which rested a corpse wrapped in funeral vestments. Around it were stationed soldiers who were acting as guards; and there was a throng of people, some gazing mournfully upon the corpse, whose face was covered, others weeping pitifully. 'Who is dead in the White House?' I demanded of one of the soldiers. 'The President,' was his answer; 'he was killed by an assassin!' Then came a loud burst of grief from the crowd, which awoke me from my dream. I slept no more that night; and although it was only a dream, I have been strangely annoyed by it since."
On the morning of April 3, Lincoln was informed that Petersburg had finally fallen to Federal troops. He decided to go into the city, and was accompanied by Admiral David Porter, Captain John Barnes, William Crook, and Lincoln’s son, Tad on a special train. 
Grant with his horse, Cincinnati
Upon arriving at the station along the U.S. Military Railroad, Lincoln took his seat on Grant’s horse, Cincinnati and with the others rode into the city over the Jerusalem Plank Road.
Tad Lincoln
Lincoln and his entourage arrived at the Thomas Wallace house. Thomas Wallace invited the President and General Grant inside but they opted to remain on the porch. While Lincoln and Grant discussed that Grant should defeat Lee and allow Sherman to defeat Joseph Johnston’s army in North Carolina, Tad grew restless until Federal general George Sharpe produced sandwiches. 
Thomas Wallace House
Their discussion on the porch of the Wallace house was the last time Lincoln and Grant met.

Another local citizen Lincoln had known from his time in Congress, was Confederate General Roger A. Pryor. The President attempted to visit Pryor at the home he was renting. Lincoln, instead, met with Pryor’s wife, Sara. 
Sara Pryor
Mrs. Pryor rejected the President’s request to visit her husband on the grounds that Roger “was a paroled prisoner, that General Lee was still in the field, and that he could hold no conference with the head of the opposing army.” 
Roger A. Pryor with a portrait of Lincoln
After an hour and a half in the city, Lincoln left to return to City Point.
Illustration of Lincoln in Richmond
The next day ,the president visited the former Confederate capital at Richmond. Newly freed slaves greeted him there amid the still smoking ruins of the "Evacuation Fire" that leveled much of the city's business district during the Confederate withdrawal.  Lincoln toured the grounds of the Richmond State Capitol building that housed both the Virginia and Confederate congresses during the war.  He also visited the former home of Confederate President Jefferson Davis during his tour. He met with former Confederate officials there and discussed Virginia's readmission to the Union.  Lincoln also visited Libby Prison, where thousands of Union officers were held during the war.
Elizabeth Keckley
Lincoln returned to Petersburg on April 7th with his wife, Mary, her seamstress and confidante, Elizabeth Keckly, and a few others. While in the city on this day, President Lincoln went to Centre Hill Mansion and spoke privately with General George Hartsuff,  now in charge of the city.
Depot Field Hospital
On April 8, President Lincoln left the River Queen, came ashore, and with a group including his wife, visited the Depot Field Hospital. The Depot Field Hospital, with 10,000 beds, was the largest of four military hospitals at City Point. The hospital consisted of 90 stockade pavilions, 50 by 20 feet in size, and 452 tents during the winter, but more tents were added by the time of the President’s visit. Those patients with the ability to move about waited in a line outside of each facility and had a chance to shake the President’s hand. Bedridden atients teceived a personal visit by Lincoln. 

Later that evening, a large party was planned onboard the River Queen featuring high-ranking officers and other prominent guests. The party ended at 10:00 p.m. and the ship began its journey back to Washington.

The following day, April 9, General Robert E. Lee surrendered his Army of Northern Virginia to General Grant at Appomattox Court House and the Civil War 

President Lincoln, his wife Mary and son Tad arrived back in Washington at 6:00 p.m. Upon their return, Mrs. Lincoln stated concern about “enemies” in the City to which the President replied, “Enemies, never again must we repeat that word.” 

He was assassinated six days later.

No comments:

Post a Comment