Confederate Capital of Richmond Captured
In April of 1865 the Civil War was finally drawing to a close after four years of devastating fighting. One major, and elusive, prize remained for the Union: the capture of the Confederate capital at Richmond, Virginia. For nearly ten months Richmond and the nearby city of Petersburg had been defended by the South’s main army, the Army of Northern Virginia, led by General Robert E. Lee. The force besieging the Confederate capital was the massive Union Army of the Potomac, led by General Ulysses S. Grant, and it dwarfed the Southern army in every way: men, arms, equipment, and supplies.
Grant was engaged in a severe war of attrition: he could afford to lose men—Lee could not. The Army of Northern Virginia was weakened by disease, hunger and casualties, and its ranks thinned by desertion. With stunning swiftness after such a long stalemate, April 1865 brought the victory the North had worked so hard to achieve.
The Union army won a significant victory at the Battle of Five Forks southwest of Petersburg on April 1, and Lee realized he could withstand the pressure of Grant’s army no longer. The next day Lee informed Confederate President Jefferson Davis that he was evacuating Petersburg and Richmond, and Davis left the capital city that night as Richmond blazed with fires set by the retreating Confederate troops. Finally, on April 3, 1865, came the news the North had longed to hear: at 8:15 that morning Union General Godfrey Weitzel accepted the formal surrender of Richmond. The Confederate capital had fallen!
Six days later, Lee surrendered the Army of Northern Virginia to Grant at Appomattox Court House, and the Civil War was essentially over. By June all remaining Southern troops had surrendered. The nation’s long nightmare had come to an end.
The following three newspaper articles are about the capture of Richmond, news which elated the North. The first article reports the victory, while the other two describe the spontaneous celebrations that broke out in Northern cities when they heard the “glorious news.”
This article was published by the American Line and reprinted by the Providence Evening Press (Providence, Rhode Island) on April 3, 1865—the day Richmond was captured:
The Good News Confirmed
‘Old Glory’ Floats over the Heart of Secessia
Richmond on Fire
Our Troops Received with Enthusiasm
President Lincoln Gone to the Front
The Rebs Retreat in Great Haste
The Last Ditch Not Yet Found
(By the American Line.)
War Department, Washington, April 3—12 P.M.
Maj. Gen. Dix:
The following official confirmation of the capture of Richmond, and the announcement that the city is on fire, has been received.
—E. M. Stanton,
Secretary of War
City Point, April 3, 11 a.m.
E. M. Stanton, Secretary of War:
Gen. Weitzel telegraphs as follows:
We took Richmond at 8:15 this morning. I captured many guns. The enemy left in great haste.
The city is on fire in one place. I am making every effort to put it out. The people received us with enthusiastic expressions of joy.
Gen. Grant started early this morning, with the army, toward the Danville road, to cut off Gen. Lee’s retreating army, if possible.
President Lincoln has gone to the front.
This article was published by the Albany Journal (Albany, New York), also on April 3, 1865:
Richmond and Petersburg in Our Possession!
The news is glorious. Victory on victory crowns the valor of our arms. Last night the glad tidings reached us that the Southside Railroad has been captured and the Rebel lines pierced by the army of Grant. This morning we have the stirring announcement that Petersburg has been evacuated and that Richmond is in our possession. The latter city was occupied this morning by our forces under General Weitzel.
As we write, we have no particulars. It suffices for the present to know that the Rebel Capital—the central nest and stronghold of Treason—is ours: ours after four years of desperate conflict; ours after successive failures, and defeats, and humiliations, and deferred hopes that made the heart sick; ours after rivers of blood have been shed and hecatombs of heroic lives had been sacrificed.
We have a right to rejoice over this signal triumph of our arms. Let the cannon boom and the bells peal forth the notes of joy. Let flags be unfurled and bonfires lit and the insignia of victory displayed from every housetop and window. Let shouts of victory rend the air, and songs of praise be sung, and thanksgiving to God be proclaimed from every pulpit and family altar. The night has been dark and dreary; but the day has dawned at last. If the struggle is not ended, the goal is in sight.
This article was published by the American Line and reprinted by the Providence Evening Press (Providence, Rhode Island), also on April 3, 1865:
Rejoicings over the Glorious News
(By the American Line.)
Boston, April 3.
The glorious news from the Army of the Potomac and the announcement of the fall of Richmond creates an intensity of patriotic excitement. Flags are floating from public and private buildings, and everybody looks jubilant. Large sums are being contributed in aid of the Christian and other missions to furnish help for the wounded.
A mass meeting for congratulation was held in the Exchange at noon. Prayer was offered by the Rev. Mr. Hepworth, and appropriate speeches were made.
Gilmore’s Band are playing patriotic airs in State street.
Philadelphia, April 3.
The ringing of the alarm bells caused a grand turnout of all the firemen, who congregated in front of Independence Hall with their fire engines under steam. After prolonged cheering they formed an impromptu procession, and with bells ringing and steam throttles screaming in full blast, they passed through Third street, making an uproar of rejoicing such as was never heard here before.
The firemen’s procession was an hour in passing the American Telegraph building. One company had a gun from which they were firing salutes as they passed along.
A grand salute is now thundering from the roof of the Bulletin building.
By order of Mayor Henry, the State House bell over Independence Hall is now ringing over the downfall of Richmond.
Albany, April 3.
The capture of Richmond was announced in the Legislature, when it adjourned with cheers.
Buffalo, April 3.
Flags at all points, and other demonstrations show the intense joy of the people.
New York, April 3—2 P.M.
The great meeting is still going on in Wall street, amid great enthusiasm.
It is rumored that several Jew gold gamblers have absconded, and some committed suicide.
Salutes multiply—one is now being fired by Col. Howe, from the roof of the New England Rooms, the building being decorated with flags from roof to sidewalk. The sick and discharged soldiers at the rooms are almost crazy with delight. Not much business is being done except in the rejoicing line.
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