City Of Richmond
( Originally Published 1900 )
Richmond, the capital of Virginia, has about one hundred and thirty thousand population, and occupies a delightful situation. The James River flows around a grand curve from the northwest to the south, and pours over falls and rapids, which display many little cascades among a maze of diminutive islands. There are on the northern bank two or three large hills and several smaller ones, and Richmond is built upon these, it is said like Rome upon her seven hills. The State Capitol and a broad white penitentiary crown two of the highest. The town was founded at the falls of the James in 1737, and the capital of Virginia was moved here from Williamsburg in 1779, when there was only a small population. The place did not have much history, however, until it became the Capital of the Confederacy, and then the strong efforts made to capture it and the vigorous defence gave it world-wide fame. Beginning in 1862 it was made an impregnable fortress, and its fall, when the Confederate flank was turned in 1865 through the capture of Petersburg, resulted from General Lee's retreat westward and his final surrender at Appomattox. When Lee abandoned Petersburg there was a panic in Richmond, with riot and pillage; the bridges, storehouses and mills were fired, and nearly one-third of the city burnt. It has since, however, been rebuilt in better style, and has extensive manufactures and a profitable trade.
The centre of Richmond is a park of twelve acres, surrounding the Capitol, a venerable building upon the summit of Shockoe Hill, and the most conspicuous structure in the city. It was built just after the American Revolution, the plan having been brought from France by Thomas Jefferson, and modelled from the ancient Roman temple of the Maison Carrée at Nismes, the front being a fine Ionic portico. From the roof, elevated high above every surrounding building, there is an excellent view, disclosing the grand sweep of the river among the islands and rapids, going off to the south, where it disappears among the hills behind Drewry's Bluff, below the town. The square-block plan with streets crossing at right angles is well displayed, and the abrupt sides of some of the hills, where they have been cut away, disclose the high-colored, reddish-yellow soils which have been so prolific in tobacco culture, and give the scene such brilliant hues, as well as dye the river a chocolate color in times of freshet. The city spreads over a wide surface, and has populous suburbs on the lower lands south of the James. This Capitol was the meeting-place of the Confederate Congress, and the locality of all the statecraft of the " Lost Cause." It contains the battle-flags of the Virginia troops and other relics, and in a gallery built around the rotunda are hung the portraits of the Virginia Governors and of the three great military chiefs, Lee, Johnston and Jackson. Upon the floor beneath is Houdon's famous statue of Washington, made while he was yet alive. In 1785, the talented French sculptor accompanied Franklin to this country to prepare the model for the statue, which had been ordered by the Virginia Government. He spent two weeks at Mount Vernon with Washington, taking casts of his face, head and upper portion of the body, with minute measurements; and then returned to Paris. The statue was finished in 1788, and is regarded as the most accurate reproduction of Washington existing. A statue of Henry Clay and a bust of Lafayette are also in the rotunda.
On the esplanade north of the Capitol is Craw ford's bronze equestrian statue of Washington upon a massive granite pedestal, one of the most attractive and elaborate bronzes ever made. The horse is half thrown upon his haunches, giving the statue exceeding spirit, while upon smaller pedestals around stand six heroic statues in bronze of Virginia states-men of various periods—Patrick Henry, Thomas Jefferson, Thomas Nelson, George Mason, Andrew Lewis and Chief Justice John Marshall—the whole adorned with appropriate emblems. This artistic masterpiece was constructed at a cost of $260,000. In the centre of the esplanade is Foley's bronze statue of Stonewall Jackson, sent from London in 1875 by a number of his English admirers as a gift to the State of Virginia. It is of heroic size, standing upon a pedestal of Virginia granite, and is a striking reproduction. The inscription is : " Presented by English gentlemen as a tribute of admiration for the soldier and patriot, Thomas J. Jackson, and gratefully accepted by Virginia in the name of the Southern people." Beneath is inscribed in the granite the remark giving his sobriquet, which was made at the first battle of Bull Run in 1862, where Jackson commanded a brigade. At a time when the day was apparently lost, his troops made so firm a stand that some one, in admiration, called out the words that became immortal : " Look, there is Jack-son standing like a stone wall!" A short distance from the Capitol is the " Confederate White House," a square-built dwelling, with a high porch in the rear and a small portico in front. Here lived Jefferson Davis during his career as President of the Confederacy ; it is now a museum of war relics. Nearby is St. Paul's Episcopal Church, where Davis was at-tending service on the eventful Sunday morning in April, 1865, when he was brought the fateful telegram from General Lee which said that Richmond must be immediately evacuated. In the central part of the residential quarter, on Franklin Street, is the plain brick house which during the Civil War was the home of General Lee. It is related that after the Appomattox surrender, when he returned to this house, the people of Richmond got an idea that he was suffering privations and his family needed the necessaries of life. His son, Fitz Hugh Lee, after-wards said that the people then vied with each other in sending him everything imaginable. So generous were the gifts that the upper parts of the house were filled with barrels of flour, meats and many other things, and the supplies became so bountiful that Lee directed their distribution among the poor. This house is now occupied by the Virginia Historical Society. A magnificent equestrian statue of General Lee was erected on Park Avenue in 1890.
Some Richmond memorials, however, antedate the Civil War. Its " first house "—a low, steep-roofed stone cabin on the Main street, said to have been there when the town site was first laid out—is an object of homage. The popular idea is that the Indian King Powhatan originally lived in this house, but it was probably constructed after his time. Not far away, upon Richmond or Church Hill, stands St. John's Church among the old gravestones in a spacious churchyard. It was built in 1740—a little wooden church with a small steeple. Here the first Virginian Convention was held which paved the way for the Revolution in 1775, and listened to Patrick Henry's impassioned speech--" Give me liberty or give me death." The pew in which he stood while speaking is still preserved. An adjoining eminence is called Libby Hill, where lived Luther Libby, who owned most of the land thereabout. Under its shadow was the Libby Prison of the Civil War, since removed to Chicago for exhibition. It had been a tobacco warehouse, occupied by Libby & Co., but during the war it held at various times over fifty thousand Northern prisoners. All the captured soldiers were first taken to Libby, the commissioned officers remaining there, while the privates were sent to points in the interior. The most noted event in the history of this prison was the boring of a tunnel through the eastern wall, in February, 1864, by which one hundred and nine prisoners, led by Colonel Streight, managed to escape into an adjoining stable and storehouse, and though more than half of them were recaptured, the others got safely out of Richmond and into the Union lines.
The water power of the James River supplies huge flour mills and other factories, and alongside the stream are the extensive Tredegar Iron Works at the base of Gamble Hill, one of the largest iron and steel works in the Southern States. Here were made the Confederate cannon, shot and shell, and the primitive armor plates for their few warships. This hill also overlooks the James River and Kanawha Canal, an interior water way going westward beyond the Alleghenies. In mid-river above is Belle Isle, a broad, flat island, which during the war was a place of imprisonment for private soldiers, but upon it is now an iron mill. Along the lower river are the wharves and shipping, in the section called Roeketts, and here are also the tobacco storehouses and factories, the chief Richmond industry, for it is the world's leading tobacco mart, receiving and distributing most of the product of the rich soils of Virginia, Kentucky and Carolina. The pungent odor generally pervades the town, for whichever way the wind may blow it wafts the perfume of a tobacco or cigarette factory. The Tobacco Exchange is the business centre, and this industry is of the first importance. The modern-built City Hall, adjacent to the Capitol Park, is one of Richmond's finest buildings.
In the western suburbs, upon the river bank, and in a lovely position, is the famous Hollywood Cemetery, the terraced sides of its ravines being occupied by mausoleums and graves, while in front the rushing rapids roar a requiem for the dead. The foliage is luxuriant ; and, while occupying only about eighty acres, it is a most beautiful burial-place. Here are interred two Virginia Presidents—James Monroe and John Tyler. An elaborate monument marks the former, and a magnificent tree is planted at Tyler's grave—his daughter, buried nearby, having for a monument a tasteful figure of the Virgin. The Hollywood Cemetery Association is to place a monument on Tyler's grave. Here are also buried Con-federate Generals A. P. Hill, J. E. 1'o Stuart, the dashing cavalryman, and George E. Pickett, who led the desperate Confederate charge of the Virginia Division at Gettysburg. It also contains the graves of the eccentric John Randolph of Roanoke ; Commodore Maury, the navigator ; Henry A. Wise, Governor of Virginia when the State seceded, and Thomas Ritchie, long editor of the Richmond Enquirer, a most powerful writer and political leader in the early part of the nineteenth century, who is regarded in Virginia as the " Father of the Democratic Party." There are crowded into this cemetery in one place twelve thousand graves of Confederate soldiers, and in the centre of the ghastly plot there rises a huge stone pyramid, ninety feet high, erected as a memorial by the Southern women. Vines overrunning it almost conceal the rough joints of the stones. No name is upon it, for it was built as a monument for the unnamed dead. On three sides are inscriptions ; on one " To the Confederate Dead ;" on another " Memoria in AEterna," and on a third " Numini et Patrice Asto." As they fell on the adjacent battlefields or died in the hospitals, unclaimed, they were brought here and buried in rows. In one urgent, terrible season, time not being given to prepare separate graves, the bodies were interred on the hillside in long trenches. This sombre pyramid and its immediate surroundings are impressive memorials of the great war. From any of the Richmond hills can be seen other grim mementos. Almost all the present city parks were then army hospitals or cemeteries ; all the chief highways lead out to battlefields, and most of them in the suburbs are bordered with the graves of the dead of both armies. All around the compass the outlook is upon battlefields, and on all sides but the north upon cemeteries.