Sunday, March 29

This week in the Civil War: March 29, 1865

Fall of Richmond, Virginia, seat of Confederacy

The forces of Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee reached the breaking point this week 150 years ago in the Civil War. Lee ordered infantry and cavalry units to hold a key defensive line at Five Forks, Virginia, only to come under withering Union attack. Union forces took many prisoners as they beat back Lee's forces and soon cut off Lee's only remaining supply line for the Confederacy to Petersburg and nearby Richmond, Virginia, seat of the Confederacy. News reports of the week recalled bloody combat and thousands of Confederates taken prison as the Southern troops were rapidly becoming demoralized. The dire turn of events forced Lee to inform Jefferson Davis that both cities would have to be evacuated and the Petersburg-Richmond siege lines abandoned. After a hasty Confederate evacuation begun on April 2, 1865, Union troops entered Richmond the next day. "Richmond and Petersburg Taken!" blared the New York Tribune in bold headlines in its April 4, 1865, edition. It added: "Colored Troops the First to Enter the Slaveholders' Capital ... THE REBELS LEAVE IN HASTE. Gen. Grant Attempting to Cut Off Lee's Escape." That same day, President Abraham Lincoln would visit the city, greeted by jubilant former slaves. Lee's surrender would only be a matter of days.

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