Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Episode 201 (2-17-14): Abraham Lincoln and the James River

Click to listen to episode (2:56)


From the Cumberland Gap to the Atlantic Ocean, this is Virginia Water Radio for the week of February 17, 2014.

This week, in honor of Presidents Day, we look back on Abraham Lincoln's trip to the James River and Richmond, Virginia, in the final weeks of the Civil War.  Have a listen for about 25 seconds to some scene-setting sounds and music.


Founded in 1737 at the Fall Line on the James River, Richmond in 1861 replaced Montgomery, Alabama, as the capital of the Confederacy.  This, of course, made Richmond a prime objective of the Union Army.  As our musical excerpt notes, that was a hard objective to accomplish.  The James River played a large role both in Union advances toward the city and Confederate defenses of it.  By the spring of 1865, Union successes allowed President Lincoln to travel to General Ulysses Grant’s headquarters at City Point, now the city of Hopewell, where the Appomattox River flows into the James.  During the president’s stay from March 24 to April 8, the Union took Petersburg, leading the Confederates to evacuate Richmond, accompanied by fires and explosions set to keep materials out of Union hands.  On April 4, Lincoln traveled up the James to visit the evacuated city.   As Lincoln came ashore he encountered several former slaves who gathered around to praise him.  According to the Lincoln Institute, after Lincoln assured the group that no one would return them to slavery, one man used the following water metaphor to explain their reaction to Lincoln: “...after being so many years in the desert without water, it's mighty pleasant to be lookin' at last on our spring of life.”  Thanks to Bobby Horton for permission to use part of his recording of “Richmond is a Hard Road to Travel.”

For other water sounds and music, and for more Virginia water information, visit our Web site at virginiawaterradio.org, or call us at (540) 231-5463.  From the Virginia Water Resources Research Center in Blacksburg, I’m Alan Raflo, thanking you for listening, and wishing you health, wisdom, and good water.


[All Internet addresses mentioned were functional as of 2/17/14]

Happy Presidents Day 2014 from Virginia Water Radio!  (Photo by Joey Mignone.)
Part of the Richmond, Va., skyline, as seen viewed from the James River downstream of the city, June 2007.

The sound of the James River was recorded February 17, 2014, at Brown’s Island in Richmond.  The island was the site of a Confederate ammunition factory during the Civil War.  Thanks to Michael Martz for providing this recording.

This week’s music was from “Richmond is a Hard Road to Travel,” performed by Bobby Horton on the 1988 album “Homespun Songs of the C.S.A., Vol. 4,” used with permission.  More information about Mr. Horton is available online at http://bobbyhorton.com/.

The cannon shot was made by the crew of one of the replica James River cargo boats, called batteau, participating in the annual James River Batteau Festival on June 15, 2013, in Lynchburg.  (For more from the 2013 Batteau Festival, please see Virginia Water Radio Episode 166, 6-17-13.)

Chicago Tirbune
, 12/6/109, “Lincoln's Last Trip,” by Patrick T. Reardon.

CivilWarTraveler.com, “Lincoln Visits Richmond” (podcast and map), online at http://civilwartraveler.com/audio/podcasts.html.

“City Point During the Civil War,” online at http://www.encyclopediavirginia.org/City_Point_During_the_Civil_War; “The James River During the Civil War,” online at http://www.encyclopediavirginia.org/James_River_During_the_Civil_War; and “Richmond During the Civil War,” online at http://www.encyclopediavirginia.org/Richmond_During_the_Civil_War; all by Encyclopedia Virginia, from the Virginia Foundation for the Humanities and Library of Virginia, home page at http://www.encyclopediavirginia.org/.

“James River,” 1 min./44 sec. video online at http://www.walkinlincolnsfinalfootsteps.com/video/grant-3/.  This and other videos are part of “Walk in Lincoln’s Final Footsteps,” a joint project by the following Virginia localities: Chesterfield County, the City of Colonial Heights, Dinwiddie County, the City of Hopewell, the City of Petersburg, and Prince George County; home page at http://www.walkinlincolnsfinalfootsteps.com/.

The Lincoln Institute, “Civil War/Entering Richmond,” online at
http://www.mrlincolnandfreedom.org/inside.asp?ID=84&subjectID=3.  This article is part of the Lincoln Institute’s project, “Mr. Lincoln and Freedom,” online at http://www.mrlincolnandfreedom.org/.

National Park Service/Richmond National Battlefield, “Lincoln’s Visit to Richmond,” online at http://www.nps.gov/rich/historyculture/lincvisit.htm.

National Park Service/Petersburg National Battlefield, “President Lincoln Visits City Point and Petersburg—March 24-April 8, 1865,” online at http://www.nps.gov/pete/parknews/upload/Lincoln-at-Pete-and-CPrev2.pdf.

New York Times
front page, April 5, 1865, available online at http://www.nytimes.com/1865/04/08/news/richmond-visit-president-lincoln-richmond-his-interview-with-prominent-citizens.html.

Related Episodes of Virginia Water Radio

Three previous episodes--also featuring music by Bobby Horton--on rivers in the American Civil War and the American Revolutionary War are the following:
Episode 164 (Week of 6-13-13): “Richmond is a Hard Road to Travel” by Bobby Horton

Episode 103 (Week of 3-19-12): History on the York River—“The Surrender of Cornwallis” by Bobby Horton
; and

Episode 101 (Week of 3-5-12): “All Quiet Along the Potomac Tonight” by Bobby Horton

A previous episode for Presidents Day is Episode 149 (Week of 2-18-13): George Washington, Walter Johnson, and the Rappahannock River.

Virginia Water News and Other Information
            For news, events, and resources relevant to Virginia's water resources, grouped into categories, please visit the Virginia Water Central News Grouper, available online at http://vawatercentralnewsgrouper.wordpress.com/.