Lincoln Visits Richmond

April 4, 1865 – President Abraham Lincoln visited the former Confederate capital of Richmond the day after its fall.

President Lincoln | Image Credit: Wikispaces.com

President Lincoln | Image Credit: Wikispaces.com

Admiral David D. Porter carefully navigated the dangerous James River to bring Lincoln, his son Tad, and a White House guard to Richmond. Due to river obstructions, they finished their journey to Rockett’s Wharf on a small barge. Once ashore, Porter armed the oarsmen to serve as presidential bodyguards. The party landed near Libby Prison around 8 a.m.[1]

Porter spotted a Federal cavalryman and sent him to arrange an escort. In the meantime, Lincoln began walking into town. Blacks quickly mobbed him, kneeling, praying, singing, and weeping for joy. Lincoln told them, “Don’t kneel to me. That is not right. You must kneel to God only, and thank Him for the liberty you will enjoy hereafter.”[2]

Lincoln walked about two miles under the eyes of disheartened residents until he reached Federal headquarters in the former Confederate White House. Major General Godfrey Weitzel gave Lincoln a house tour, and Federal troops cheered as Lincoln sat at the desk of Jefferson Davis and asked for water.[3]

After lunch, Lincoln met with former Confederate Assistant Secretary of War and U.S. Supreme Court Justice John A. Campbell, the last top Confederate official remaining in Richmond. No longer an envoy as he had been at the Hampton Roads Conference, Campbell proclaimed his “submission to the military authorities.” He said, “When lenity and cruelty play for a kingdom, the gentler gamester is the soonest winner.”[4]

Campbell acknowledged the war was over and urged Lincoln to consult with Virginia politicians on how best to return the state to the U.S. Lincoln expressed deep interest in restoring Federal authority, which Campbell interpreted to mean willingness to disband the illegitimate pro-U.S. state legislature of Virginia in favor of the popularly elected body if those legislators willingly submitted to Federal rule and proclaimed loyalty to the U.S.[5]

Lincoln later joined General Weitzel on a tour of the ruined city in an open carriage, escorted by Federal cavalry. This included a visit to Libby Prison, which had housed Federal prisoners of war. Lincoln returned to U.S.S. Malvern on the James River for the night, but he met Campbell and a Virginia legislator aboard Malvern off Rockett’s Landing the next morning.[6]

Campbell and the legislator assured Lincoln that if he allowed Virginia to rejoin the U.S., General Robert E. Lee’s Confederate Army of Northern Virginia would disband. Offering no firm pledges, Lincoln gave Campbell a written statement proclaiming that the Federal authority must first be restored. Moreover, “on the slavery question,” Lincoln would not change “from the position in the late annual message to Congress and in preceding documents.” Lincoln suggested placing an executive ban on confiscating Confederate property, but this “remission of confiscation has no reference to supposed property in slaves.”[7]

Lincoln ended by saying he would make no firm decisions until he returned to City Point, the supply base for the Federal Army of the Potomac, later that day.[8]

—–

[1] Foote, Shelby, The Civil War: A Narrative: Volume 3: Red River to Appomattox (Vintage Civil War Library, Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group, Kindle Edition, 2011-01-26), Kindle Locations 18805-18815; Goodwin, Doris Kearns, Team of Rivals: The Political Genius of Abraham Lincoln (New York: Simon and Schuster, 2005), p. 718; Long, E.B. with Long, Barbara, The Civil War Day by Day (New York: Da Capo Press, Inc., 1971), p. 666; Ward, Geoffrey C., Burns, Ric, Burns, Ken, The Civil War (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1990), p. 369

[2] Foote, The Civil War: A Narrative: Volume 3: Red River to Appomattox, Kindle Locations 18814-18844; Goodwin, Team of Rivals: The Political Genius of Abraham Lincoln, p. 718; Korn, Jerry, Pursuit to Appomattox: The Last Battles (Alexandria, VA: Time-Life Books, 1983), p. 108-10, 164-71; Long with Long, The Civil War Day by Day, p. 666; Ward, Burns, Burns, The Civil War, p. 369

[3] Clark, Champ, The Assassination: The Death of the President (Alexandria, VA: Time-Life Books, 1983), p. 54-55; Foote, The Civil War: A Narrative: Volume 3: Red River to Appomattox, Kindle Locations 18844-18874; Korn, Pursuit to Appomattox: The Last Battles, p. 108-10; Long with Long, The Civil War Day by Day, p. 666; Ward, Burns, Burns, The Civil War, p. 369

[4] Foote, The Civil War: A Narrative: Volume 3: Red River to Appomattox, Kindle Locations 18844-18874; Goodwin, Team of Rivals: The Political Genius of Abraham Lincoln, p. 718; Korn, Pursuit to Appomattox: The Last Battles, p. 108-10, 164-71

[5] Long with Long, The Civil War Day by Day, p. 666; McFeely, William S., Grant: A Biography (New York: W.W. Norton & Co., Inc., 1981), p. 215

[6] Foote, The Civil War: A Narrative: Volume 3: Red River to Appomattox, Kindle Locations 18844-18874, 18913-18943; Goodwin, Team of Rivals: The Political Genius of Abraham Lincoln, p. 718; Korn, Pursuit to Appomattox: The Last Battles, p. 108-10, 164-71; Long with Long, The Civil War Day by Day, p. 666-67

[7] Foote, The Civil War: A Narrative: Volume 3: Red River to Appomattox, Kindle Locations 18913-18943; Long with Long, The Civil War Day by Day, p. 666-67; McFeely, Grant: A Biography, p. 215; White, Howard Ray, Bloodstains, An Epic History of the Politics that Produced and Sustained the American Civil War and the Political Reconstruction that Followed (Southernbooks. Kindle Edition), Kindle Locations 58777-58780

[8] Foote, The Civil War: A Narrative: Volume 3: Red River to Appomattox, Kindle Locations 18913-18943; Long with Long, The Civil War Day by Day, p. 666-67;White, Bloodstains, An Epic History of the Politics that Produced and Sustained the American Civil War and the Political Reconstruction that Followed, Kindle Locations 58777-58780

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3 thoughts on “Lincoln Visits Richmond

  1. […] Lincoln visited the ruins of Richmond. He also conferred with John A. Campbell, the highest ranking Confederate official still in […]

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  2. […] Lincoln visited the ruins of Richmond. He also conferred with John A. Campbell, the highest ranking Confederate official still in […]

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  3. […] Lincoln visited Richmond the previous week, he had informed John A. Campbell, the last top Confederate official still in the […]

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