From the Columbus (Georgia) Daily Enquirer, 7/12/1896, p. 6, c. 3
RICHMOND MEMORIES REVIVED.
An Old Columbus General Recalls Stirring Recollections.
More men have toiled and starved, gone in rags, shed their blood, loved and died for Richmond – fair Richmond on the James – than for any other city on the continent.
The late reunion furnished ample evidence that the men, who defended the city from 1861 to 1865, still had an affection for the city and its people, were as extravagant in their demonstration of welcome as they were in July, 1861, when the Second Georgia, with a splendid band in front, marched down Main street amid the shouts of thousands.
Richmond did her best to show welcome to her defenders in the dark days. Her streets, buildings and cars were profusely decorated. It is said 90,000 meals and 12,000 beds were furnished free of charge to those who chose to accept.
The city has grown wonderfully. The sites of Chimborazo hospital and the old fair grounds are now beautiful parks, surrounded with elegant buildings.
The inner line of fortifications has entirely disappeared; the second line has been leveled in most places for buildings and cultivation, but Fort Harrison, Fort Fields – or Fort Georgia as we called it – Fort Gilmer and the line on the Darbytown road, where we camped during the winter of ’64-5, still retain their shape, but are covered with young trees averaging about twenty-five feet high.
I visited Seven Pines, and walked along the federal works to the fort where so many lost their lives. There are still visible deep ruts, caused, it is said, by working the cannon on the ground, softened by the hard rain which fell the night before the fight. An electric railway, crossing the York River railroad at Fair Oaks Station, has its terminus within a few hundred yards of the fort. At Fort Harrison I met a gentleman who wore blue on the day it was captured, and we remembered many of the details of the fight.
Dutch Gap Canal was started by Butler, and, since the war, has been completed by the government, so that all vessels pass through it. It is a clear cut of about three hundred yards’ length through a high bluff, while the distance around by the old course is said to be fourteen miles. We saw Drewry’s Bluff, Fort Darling and, from a distance, Malvern Hill and Deep Bottom, where Gov. Oates lost his arm and the gallant Girardy his life.
At Petersburg, we commenced at the line near the river and walked to the Crater, Fort Steadman still stands, covered with vegetation; but the elaborate breast works – covered ways for reinforcements – bomb proofs, etc., have all disappeared except the Crater. Mr. Griffith, who owns the land on which is the Crater, and who was born in the homestead destroyed by fire on the 18th of June, 1864, just in the rear of the Crater, informed me that the negroes, who crowded to the city after the surrender, leveled the works to get the lead which the federals had fired into them, and he preserved the Crater by obtaining a guard of federal soldiers. It is grown up in pines, cedars and fruit trees, but otherwise presents the same appearance as it did at the close of the war. Griffith was thirteen years old when the explosion occurred, and pulled the lanyards of two Cohorn mortars all that morning. When our men charged, and the mortars ceased firing, he crept; to the top of the hill and saw Mahone and Wright’s brigade take the works to the left of the Crater, and Sande’s Alabama brigade then moved across the field in perfect alignment at right shoulder shift and recaptured the rest of our line.
With us were men who participated in the charge, and they fought the battle over again as they recognized different places where some officer or comrade had fallen. One Virginia regiment entered the fight with ninety-seven men, and at night only seven were left to answer roll call.
There is a building on the ground filled with relics of the fight, and the owner tells many interesting incidents coming under his own observation, and related by the many visitors to this historic spot.
Besides the many famous statues in Richmond, others have been added since, which attest the love of the people for those who lost their lives in her defense and the cause for which they fought.
There is a tall shaft with a private soldier on it – the Soldiers’ and Sailors’ monument, on Lily Hill, a monument to the Richmond Howitzers, a figure of a bare-headed artilleryman, sponge staff in hand, watching the effect of his shot; a statue of Gens. Wickham, A. P. Hill, Stewart and Gen. Lee on Traveler. These are all fine works of art, attesting the pride of Virginia in her past, and inspiring the people with recollections of her great men.
I asked hundreds of veterans from every southern state how they had fared since the war, and almost invariably received the answer that they prospered greatly. Some said they were happy; that they were giving or had given good educations to promising sons and daughters, and had had abundance of this world’s goods.
The rates at the magnificent Jefferson hotel were $10.00 a day and upwards, and its rooms had been engaged for months prior to the reunion for that occasion, and the larger part of the veterans seemed to spend money freely.
Many veterans, like myself, carried a son to the reunion and the battlefields. The story of the hardships of the fathers on that historic ground, together with the subsequent struggle to build up a devastated country, personal fortunes and preserve white supremacy, ought to nerve these sons for the conflicts yet to come in their lives.
Altogether the reunion was a most enjoyable occasion. Good feeling and good-fellowship prevailed.