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The fall of Richmond was one of the last chapters written during the Civil War. By the end of 1864 the Civil War was drawing to a close. The larger cities of the South such as Savannah, Charleston and Atlanta, were now taken over by General William Tecumseh Sherman and his troops in their fateful March to the Sea. There was only one major city left in the South and that was Richmond, which was the Confederate Capital.

Richmond would be the final act of the Civil War drama that began four years earlier and had resulted in so many lives being lost. If Richmond were to fall, it would be with a fight as the South was not ready to relinquish their jewel of the Confederacy.

Robert E. Lee positioned his Army of Virginia in the city of Richmond awaiting the Union troops in an anticipated attack. Richmond, Virginia and Washington, D.C. were less than 100 miles apart yet the four years of the Civil War neither side came even close to capturing each others cities.

Richmond Virginia after its surrender 1865

Richmond Virginia after its surrender 1865

In March of 1865, the Army of Northern Virginia, under General Lee, was dug-in at Petersburg less than 50 miles away from the city of Richmond awaiting the Union advances. Two weeks later Union troops began to break through the Confederate defenses. General Lee sent a message to President Jefferson Davis in Richmond, that he would be better off abandoning the city, as it could no longer be defended.

Taking action right away Jefferson Davis went back to his executive mansion and burned all Confederate documents about the war. Packing up his family he sent them all to Charlotte, North Carolina. Later that evening, Jefferson Davis and his entire cabinet evacuated the City of Richmond, never to return. The Confederacy would not be without a Capital though, as immediately the City of Danville, Virginia was named as the acting Capital of the Confederate States.

General Robert E. Lee decided that he would withdrawal more south to hook up with General Joseph Johnson and this would have worked if not for Union General George Gordon Meade blocking his way. Running out of food and supplies, Lee surrendered his army at Appomattox Courthouse on April 9th a few days after Richmond had fallen to Union troops.

The Confederates set the city on fire before they left to deny Union troops anything that they could use against the remaining Confederates. Union troops quickly put out all of the fires after the city formally surrendered. The capture of Richmond represented the long and last final scene in a terrible terrible war. The fighting was over and now it was time for reconstruction.