From the Richmond Whig, 1/2/1865, p. 1, c. 6
THE FIRST YEAR OF THE WAR. – As reflecting persons usually take a retrospect at the close of each year, it will not be inappropriate, at this time, to recur to some of the events of local interest during the first year of the war. Reminiscences, which have perhaps faded from the memory of many, will be recalled, and some queer thoughts will probably be evolved as the incidents immediately preceding the war are viewed by the lights of four years’ experience:
The first thing to be mentioned is the “Fast Day” recommended by “Old Buck.” This took place on the 4th of January, and was generally observed by the community. On the 12th, the Legislature, in extra session, passed the bill providing for a State Convention. On the 19th the same body adopted joint resolutions for a “Peace Conference,” and appointed the Commissioners to represent Virginia.
On the 28th, an excited meeting of citizens was held at the African Church, to nominate candidates for the Convention. The “secession element” prevailed, and Messrs. George W. Randolph, Hohn O. Steger, and John Robertson were nominated. At the election, however, which took place on the 4th of February, Messrs. W. H. Macfarland, Marmaduke Johnson and Geo. W. Randolph were returned.
Just before the election, political excitement ran high. The “Douglas men” held a meeting at the African church on the 1st, and on the same night the “Secessionists” assembled at the Mechanics’ Institute Hall. Oratory was plentiful in those days. On the night of the 2d there was a “Union Rally” at Metropolitan Hall.
The State Convention met on the 13th of February in the Hall of the House of Delegates, and, after organizing, transferred its sessions to Mechanics’ Hall. In consequence of the expression of some ultra Union sentiments in the Convention, a sort of indignation meeting was held on the 25th, in front of the Exchange Hotel. Mr. Good, of Bedford, made a stirring speech and the obnoxious members of the Convention were groaned and hissed.
On the 1st of March, the members of the Legislature took an excursion to Old Point, and visited Fortress Monroe. On the 8th, the “Secession flag” was hoisted near the Old Market, with music, speeches and cheers. A few days after, John Cochrane, of New York, visited Richmond on a “reconnaissance,” and was serenaded at the Exchange Hotel on the night of the 13th.
Politics were now at fever hear, and the “Secessionists” were rapidly gaining adherents to their cause. On the 15th, a grand rally took place at the African Church. A large delegation came from Petersburg, headed by Roger A. Pryor, who addressed the meeting in an impassioned speech, and gave a decided impulse to the secession movement. The same night a “Union meeting” was held at Metropolitan Hall, which was addressed by Messrs. Jubal A. Early, W. T. Willey and others, without arousing much enthusiasm.
Nothing of much interest occurred until the 27th of March, when Hon. L. T. Wigfall and the young ladies of the Richmond Female Institute were surrounded by an enthusiastic party who marched through the streets with a band at their head playing “Dixie” all the while.
The Unionists vainly attempted to stem the torrent. On the 29th they held a meeting at the everlasting African Church, and were addressed by Col. J. B. Baldwin. On the 1st of April another meeting was held at the same place. The “Star-Spangled Banner” was sung, with feeble effect upon the audience. This was the last Union meeting held in Richmond.
On the 13th the news of the surrender of Fort Sumter was received, with great rejoicing. One hundred guns were fired on the Capitol Square. On the 18th, the passage of the Ordinance of Secession by the Virginia Convention was made known, and the people were electrified. On the following night there was an extraordinary demonstration by the citizens. The houses were illuminated, bonfires kindled on the streets, and a grand procession, with music and fireworks.
Very soon after the fact was realized that the war for independence had indeed commenced. On Sunday, the 21st, the Grays went to Norfolk, and the city was bellicosely excited by a report that the little steamer Pawnee was coming up James river to shell Richmond. On the 25th the Constitution of the Provisional Government of the Confederate States was reported by the Convention. With this item, we close our retrospect of the antecedent events of the war.