This June 23 tour was led by Robert E. Lee “Bobby” Krick of the National Park Service. Bobby, an eminent historian in his own right, is the son of noted historian Robert K. Krick.
We stopped at a spot Bobby believes is the place Lincoln reviewed the Army of the James, and where Mary Lincoln threw her temper tantrum and yelled at Mrs. Ord for riding too close to the President. This occurred on March 26, 1865 and is on the Varina Road.
On September 29, 1864, the XVIII Corps moved north on the Varina Road with Stannard’s division in the lead and attacked Fort Harrison, the largest and strongest fort on the confederate defensive line. There were only 200 defenders and a ravine about 100 yards in front that sheltered the attacking troops from the defensive fire. The Union troops captured the fort and immediately began building new fortifications facing Richmond.
The Great Traverse inside the fort was built by the confederates to protect the defenders from Union Navy shells coming from the James River. The confederates counterattacked the next day. Lee brought up almost half his army from Petersburg and used Robert Hoke’s and Charles Fields’ divisions in a Northwest-to-Southeast attack. Hoke wasn’t ready at the appointed time and Field attacked too early. They lost several thousand men. The fort remained in Union hands.
Fort Gilmer was the second strongest fort on the confederate line. Union troops attacked it twice. In Foster’s attack, 1400 men attacked with 450 casualties. William Birney made the second attack using US Colored Troops and did a horrible job. He attacked using only one regiment at a time, and only used four companies of the 7th USCT. These troops took 196 casualties out of 197 men involved. The Union troops failed to take Fort Gilmer.
Our next stop was Chimborazo, the site of the largest confederate hospital of the Civil War. The Park Service has a diorama inside its building that shows what Chimborazo looked like during the war.
We next visited the overlook where a famous panoramic photograph of the ruins of Richmond taken after the fire caused by the retreating confederates was put out was taken so we could compare that photo with Richmond as it looks today.
We also stopped at Robert E. Lee’s house in Richmond, at 707 North Franklin Street, site of some famous photographs taken by Matthew Brady after Lee had surrendered at Appomattox.
From there we walked to St. Paul’s Episcopal Church.
We saw Lee’s pew as well as Jefferson Davis’ pew, where he was sitting when he received word from Lee that the army would have to retreat from Richmond and the confederate government had to leave.
We then walked to Capitol Square, where we saw the statues of George Washington, William “Extra Billy” Smith, Stonewall Jackson, and Dr. Hunter McGuire as well as seeing the State Capitol Building and the Governor’s Mansion. This was another fantastic tour. Bobby did an outstanding job and is extremely knowledgeable about Richmond and its history.
From there we boarded the bus again and headed back to the hotel. At the hotel we retrieved our luggage and boarded the buses for the trek back to Gettysburg.
That evening we arrived back in Gettysburg, tired but already looking forward to next year’s conference.
As always, the CWI conference was an outstanding experience second to none in the learning we did regarding the American Civil War.