Grant’s Siege Of Richmond

There were no Union attacks directly against Richmond in 1863. The second great movement upon the Confederate Capital began in June, 1864, when Grant came down through the Wilderness, as already described, and attacked the Confederates at Cold Harbor. Lee was entrenched there in almost the same defensive position occupied by McClellan’s rear when protecting his retreat across the Chickahominy two years before. Grant made little impression, but in a brief and bloody battle lost fifteen thousand men. He then turned aside from this almost impregnable position to the northeast of Richmond, went south to the James River, and, crossing over, started a new attack from a different quarter. This removed the seat of war to the south of Richmond, and in September, 1864, General Butler’s Unionist troops from Bermuda Hundred captured Fort Harrison, a strong work on the northeast side of the James, opposite Drewry’s Bluff, and not far from Malvern Hill, The campaign then became one of stubborn persistence. Throughout the autumn and winter Grant gradually spread his lines west-ward around Petersburg, so that the later movements were more a siege of that city than of Richmond. City Point, at the mouth of the Appomattox, flowing out from Petersburg to the James, became his base of supplies. As the Union lines were extended steadily westward, one railway after another, leading from the far South up to Petersburg and Richmond, was eut off, and Lee was ultimately starved out, forcing the abandonment of Petersburg in the early spring of 1865, and the evacuation of Richmond on April 3d, with the retreat of Lee westward, and the final surrender at Appomattox six days later, causing the downfall of the Confederacy, and ending the war.

From the top of Libby Hill in Richmond the route is still pointed out by which the swiftly moving Union troops, after that fateful Sunday of the evacuation, advanced over the level lands from Petersburg towards. the burning city. The bridges- across the James were burnt, and acres of buildings in the business section were in flames when they came to the river bank and found that the greater portion of the affrighted people had fled. The Yankees quickly laid a pontoon bridge, crossed to Shockoe Hill; rushed up to the Capitol, and raised the Union ” Stars and Stripes ” on the roof, replacing the Con-federate ” Stars and Bars” Then they went vigorously to work putting out the fires, and the new infusion of life given the city by its baptism of blood imparted an energy which has not only restored it, but has given it an era of great prosperity. It is a curious fact that the nearest approach any Northern troops made to Richmond during the progress of the war was in March, 1864, A precursor to Grant’s march through the Wilderness was a dashing cavalry raid from the northward, the troopers crossing the Chickahominy, then unguarded, and advancing to a point about: one mile from the city limits. Here they met some resistance, and, learning of defensive works farther ahead, General Kilpatrick, who commanded the raiders, retreated. General Lee’s troops were then fifty miles away from Richmond, guarding the lines along the Rappahannock.