Abraham Lincoln at City Point

On March 20, 1865, President Abraham Lincoln telegraphed Lieutenant General Ulysses S. Grant, who had invited Lincoln to visit him for a “day or two” at City Point, Virginia. Lincoln told Grant that he “had already thought of going immediately after the next rain.” I discuss this visit in a section of my forthcoming book, Lincoln: The Man Who Saved America.

City Point - The Peacemakers - George Healy

Lincoln at City Point and Richmond

Hearing from Washington that Lincoln looked even more worn out than usual, in March General Grant invited Lincoln to City Point (near Petersburg). Lincoln immediately accepted. He was not alone; Mary insisted on joining him, so a party including Tad Lincoln, a maid, a bodyguard, and a military aide boarded the River Queen on March 23 for the trip. Son Robert, now an adjunct to Grant’s army, met them on their arrival the next evening. Lincoln took time to visit the troops and confer with Generals Grant and Sherman and Admiral David Porter. Overall it was a restful but productive visit. That changed when Mary Lincoln flew into a jealous rage at seeing General Ord’s wife riding “too close” to her husband, after which Lincoln sent Mary back to Washington. Soon after her departure, however, the Union captured Richmond, which the Confederate leadership had abandoned. She insisted on returning, this time bringing a large entourage that included her ex-slave dressmaker, Elizabeth Keckley, who had been born in nearby Petersburg.

During Mary’s absence, Lincoln took Tad into Richmond. After landing at the docks, Lincoln and Tad walked the mile or so to the Confederate White House that had served until a few days earlier as Jefferson Davis’s office. Surrounding him along the way were hundreds of ex-slaves who wanted to see the “Great Emancipator,” while anxious white southerners stared suspiciously from their windows.

On April 8, Lincoln visited the Depot Field Hospital at City Point. Over the course of a full day he shook the hands of more than 6,000 patients, including a few sick and wounded Confederate soldiers. Feeling the pressure of business, Lincoln left City Point to return to Washington that evening. The next day, Lee surrendered his army to General Ulysses S. Grant, effectively ending the war.

The mood in Washington was euphoric. After four long years the war was essentially over.

That mood would dramatically change only a few days later as Lincoln was struck down by an assassin’s bullet. The making of Lincoln’s legacy, both myth and reality, would begin immediately.

[The above is adapted from Lincoln: The Man Who Saved America, due in Barnes and Noble stores in summer 2017]

David J. Kent is the author of Tesla: The Wizard of Electricity and Edison: The Inventor of the Modern World (both Fall River Press). He has also written two e-books: Nikola Tesla: Renewable Energy Ahead of Its Time and Abraham Lincoln and Nikola Tesla: Connected by Fate. His next book, Lincoln: The Man Who Saved America, is scheduled for release in summer 2017.

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Following in Lincoln’s Footsteps at City Point and Petersburg

Union coat and boots“Let ’em up easy,” said Abraham Lincoln when asked how to treat the citizens of Petersburg after the long siege was to leave the city defeated. Lincoln wanted to end the war, reunite the nation, and move to the future of these United States. But first the Union needed to get the job done. Not an easy task.

The Lincoln Group of DC followed in Lincoln’s footsteps as he toured Grant’s headquarters at City Point, and then as Petersburg fell, walked the streets of that city. Led by certified Washington tour guide and LGDC member Craig Howell, this was a tour that had its own trials and tribulations ahead of the actual day of victory. Postponed from its original date in June to October 3rd, Hurricane Joaquin and a Nor’easter storm seemed destined to thwart our efforts. Ah, but the tour must go on, and all the participants are glad that it did, despite overcast skies and occasional rain. Not the best conditions, but reminiscent of those that Grant’s troops battled as they fought to save the country.

Starting from King Street Metro in Old Town, Alexandria, our coach (driven by our esteemed driver Howard) streaked down to the Richmond, Virginia area for our first stop at City Point. Now a beautiful convergence of the James and Appomattox Rivers, City Point became a bustling supply port for Union forces. At any given time there could be 200 vessels lining the docks, offloading food for nearly 100,000 soldiers, weapons and gunpowder, hay and other foods for the horses and livestock, and supplies to build railroads.

At City point there is a comfortable house, home of Dr. Richard Eppes, a plantation and slave owner who nonetheless disagreed with Virginia’s decision to secede. Craig informed us that the home was used by the most important Union officer on the site – the Quartermaster, who coordinates the supply chain. General-in-Chief Ulysses S. Grant chose to set up camp in tents on the lawn beside the house; those tents became sturdier cabins once it was clear the siege would extend through the winter.

Grant's cabin City Point

At the time there were many tents, then cabins, but after the war all but one were removed as Eppes returned to his still standing but somewhat worse-for-wear home. Grant would guide his troops from there until the end of the siege. Lincoln had been there in June 1864, but for his last trip would arrive at City Point on March 24, 1865, from where he conferred with Grant, visited local hospitals, and reviewed the troops. Ray and John do there best recreation of Grant and Lincoln discussing troop movements.

In Grant's cabin

From City Point we went on to Fort Wadsworth, where Lincoln reviewed strategy and met with troops only a couple of miles from Confederate front lines. Then on to the Wallace House in Petersburg, where Lincoln and Grant sat on the front porch discussing strategy for ending the war and beginning the reconstruction. Finally, we received a tour of Centre Hill, the biggest home in Petersburg and the location of yet another meeting between Lincoln and his generals.

As always, Craig Howell regaled our group with an incredible depth of knowledge that rivals the iconic Ed Bearss. Craig’s command of all the key players, their history, of troop movements, and wonderful stories add so much to the locations we visit. A good example is his recounting of the strange case of John Maxwell, a Confederate who destroyed much of the City Point docks with a “horological torpedo” (aka, a time bomb).

 

John Maxwell

Our knowledge of City Point and the Petersburg campaign is assuredly greatly enhance thanks to Craig, and despite the dampness everyone had a great time following in the footsteps of Abraham Lincoln.

David J. Kent has been a scientist for thirty-five years, is an avid science traveler, and an independent Abraham Lincoln historian. He is the author of Tesla: The Wizard of Electricity (now in its 5th printing) and two e-books: Nikola Tesla: Renewable Energy Ahead of Its Time and Abraham Lincoln and Nikola Tesla: Connected by Fate. His book on Thomas Edison is due in Barnes and Noble stores in spring 2016.

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Abraham Lincoln’s Last 100 days – City Point, Petersburg: June 13 Bus Tour and Picnic

With the spring symposium behind us (more on that later), next up for the Lincoln Group of DC is our annual picnic and bus tour. This year we’re going to City Point and Petersburg to trace Abraham Lincoln’s two week trip to view the final stages of the Civil War. This is a critical time period and will be narrated by our very own certified tour guide, Craig Howell.

Here is the flyer. More details and sign up at Lincoln Group of DC.

LGDC City Point Petersburg Flyer

Best time to sign up is now!

On the home front, this will be a busy week. In the next few days I need to finish another chapter of my Edison book and write some blog posts to go live while I’m on my trip. Plenty of last minute chores (Home Depot) and tasks (make train reservations!). Which reminds me, time to get to work.

David J. Kent has been a scientist for over thirty years, is an avid science traveler, and an independent Abraham Lincoln historian. He is the author of Tesla: The Wizard of Electricity and the e-book Nikola Tesla: Renewable Energy Ahead of Its Time. He is currently writing a book on Thomas Edison.

Follow me by subscribing by email on the home page.  And feel free to “Like” my Facebook author’s page and connect on LinkedIn.  Share with your friends using the buttons below.