At approximately 7:00 a.m. on Sunday, April 2, 1865, Ulysses S. Grant’s army attacked Confederate lines at Petersburg, Virginia. By mid-afternoon, Confederate troops had begun to evacuate the town. The Union victory ensured the fall of Richmond, the capital of the Confederacy, located just twenty-five miles north of Petersburg.
President Jefferson Davis received word of the events in Petersburg while attending services at St. Paul’s Church in Richmond. He abandoned the capital late that night on a train bound for Danville, Virginia.
I think it is absolutely necessary that we should abandon our position tonight…
Telegram from Robert E. Lee, in Petersburg, to Jefferson Davis, in Richmond, April 2, 1865.1
- Civil War Glass Negatives and Related Prints includes numerous photographs of the siege of Petersburg and Richmond in 1865. To narrow the selection, try searching the collection on Petersburg AND Union, Petersburg AND Confederate, or Richmond AND burned.
- By 1861 telegraph lines networked much of the United States and were an important means of wartime communication. Less than twenty years earlier, on May 24, 1844, the first telegram was sent by inventor Samuel F. B. Morse. See the Samuel F. B. Morse Papers at the Library of Congress, 1793 to 1919 for more information about the invention of the telegraph.
- Long after the fall of Richmond, the Confederate States of America echoed on in Southern culture. Julia A. Wood’s 1877 sheet music, Virginia Cotillions (which pays homage to Confederate heroes Jeff Davis, Robert E. Lee, Thomas “Stonewall” Jackson, P. G. T. Beauregard, James Longstreet, and “Jeb” Stuart) is found in Music for the Nation: American Sheet Music, ca. 1870 to 1885, consisting of tens of thousands of pieces of sheet music registered for copyright during the post-Civil War era. The cotillion was a popular ballroom dance in both the antebellum and post-Civil War periods.
- Search on Petersburg and Richmond to view maps, charts, and atlases depicting battles, troop positions and movements, engagements, and fortifications in Civil War Maps.
- View the online exhibit, The Civil War in America, which presents selected items from the hundreds of thousands of items found in the many collections across the Library of Congress. The exhibit was created to commemorate the sesquicentennial of this nation’s greatest military and political upheaval.