Monday, February 11, 2019

Episode 459 (2-11-19): Abraham Lincoln and the James River

Click to listen to episode (4:27).

Sections below are the following:
Transcript of Audio
Audio Notes and Acknowledgments
Related Water Radio Episodes
For Virginia Teachers (Relevant SOLs, etc.).

Unless otherwise noted, all Web addresses mentioned were functional as of 2-8-19.


From the Cumberland Gap to the Atlantic Ocean, this is Virginia Water Radio for the week of February 11, 2019.  This week, in honor of Presidents Day [on February 18], we present a revised 2014 episode about Abraham Lincoln and the James River.

SOUND – ~7 sec

That sound of the James River at Richmond sets the stage for hearing the story of Abraham Lincoln’s trip to Richmond in the final weeks of the Civil War.  We start with music composed in the 1860s about the hard road of conflict in Virginia in the years before the President’s visit.  Have a listen for about 40 seconds.

MUSIC - ~42 sec

You’ve been listening to part of “Richmond is a Hard Road to Travel,” performed by Bobby Horton on the 1988 album “Homespun Songs of the C.S.A., Vol. 4.”  First published in 1863, the lyrics recall the series of unsuccessful attempts by the Union Army to capture Richmond in the first two years of the Civil War.  In 1861, Richmond had replaced Montgomery, Alabama, as the capital of the Confederacy, which of course made Richmond a prime objective of the Union.  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 Richmond.  As Lincoln came ashore at Rocketts Landing, he encountered several former slaves who gathered around to thank him.  According to the Lehrman Institute of American History, after Lincoln assured the group that he would not allow their return to slavery, one man used the following water metaphor to explain their enthusiastic reaction to the president, saying that “after being so many years in the desert without water,” it was “mighty pleasant to be looking at last on [their] spring of life.”

Thanks to Bobby Horton for permission to use this week’s music, and we close with a few more seconds of “Richmond is a Hard Road to Travel.”

MUSIC - ~17 sec


Virginia Water Radio is produced by the Virginia Water Resources Research Center, part of Virginia Tech’s College of Natural Resources and Environment.  For more Virginia water sounds, music, or information, visit us online at, or call the Water Center at (540) 231-5624.  Thanks to Stewart Scales for his banjo version of Cripple Creek to open and close this show.  In Blacksburg, I’m Alan Raflo, thanking you for listening, and wishing you health, wisdom, and good water.


This episode replaces Episode 201, 2-17-14, which has been archived.

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.

“Richmond is a Hard Road to Travel,” from the 1988 album “Homespun Songs of the C.S.A., Vol. 4,” is copyright by Bobby Horton, used with permission.  Part of that piece was also featured in Virginia Water Radio Episode 164, 6-3-13, a Memorial Day episode.  More information about Mr. Horton is available online at

Click here if you’d like to hear the full version (1 min./11 sec.) of the “Cripple Creek” arrangement/performance by Stewart Scales that opens and closes this episode.  More information about Mr. Scales and the group New Standard, with which Mr. Scales plays, is available online at


Below are four images related to Richmond during the Civil War, from the National Park Service, “Richmond National Battlefield Park/Places,” online at, accessed 2/11/19.  Specific Web addresses for each image are listed below the images.

Drawing of Abraham Lincoln’s visit to Richmond on April 4, 1865. Image accessed at

Civil War view of the James River from within Confederate Fort Darling at Drewry’s Bluff, along the river seven miles south of Richmond. Photo accessed at

Civil War view of Richmond. Library of Congress photo accessed at

Statue by Louis Frech of Abraham Lincoln and son Tad, at the Historic Tredegar Iron Works in Richmond, placed in 2003 to commemorate Lincoln's 1865 visit to the captured Confederate capital.  National Park Service photo, accessed online at


“City Point of James River—Hopewell, Virginia,” 1 min./44 sec. video online at  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

Encyclopedia Britannica, “Richmond, Virginia, United States,” online at

The Lehrman Institute of American History, “Civil War/Entering Richmond,” online at   This article is part of the project, “Mr. Lincoln and Freedom,” online at More information about the Lehrman Institute’s work on Abraham Lincoln is available online at

National Park Service/Richmond National Battlefield, online at; and specifically “Lincoln’s Visit to Richmond,” online at

National Park Service/Petersburg National Battlefield, “President Lincoln Visits City Point and Petersburg—March 24-April 8, 1865,” online (as PDF) at

New York Times Archive, front page of April 5, 1865, online at

Patrick T. Reardon. “Lincoln's Last Trip,” Chicago Tribune, 12/6/09.

Virginia Foundation for the Humanities, Encyclopedia Virginia:
“City Point During the Civil War,” by Emmanuel Dabney, online at;
“The James River During the Civil War,” by Kenneth M. McFarland, online at;
“Richmond During the Civil War,” by Mary DeCredico and Jaime Amanda Martinez, online at; and
“Richmond during the Colonial Period, by Matthew Gottlieb, online at


All Water Radio episodes are listed by category at the Index link above (  See particularly the “History” and the “River, Streams, and Other Surface Water” subject categories (in the latter category, see the “James River” entry).

Following are links to some other episodes on history at Richmond or along the James River.
Episode 87, 11/7/11 – Falls of the James.
Episode 265, 5/11/15 – An introduction to geography, featuring the James River watershed.
Episode 273, 7/6/15 – Virginia’s Peninsula and Historic Triangle.
Episode 373, 6/19/17 – James River Batteau Festival.
Episode 458, 2/4/19 – History of Richmond’s James River location.

Following are links to other episodes focusing on rivers in the American Civil War and the American Revolutionary War, and also featuring other music performed by Bobby Horton.
Episode 101, 3-5-12 – Rivers in the Civil War, featuring “All Quiet Along the Potomac Tonight.”
Episode 164, 6/3/13 – Role of rivers in Union attempts to take Richmond during the Civil War, featuring “Richmond is a Hard Road to Travel.”
Episode 390, 10-16-17 – History on the York River, featuring “The Surrender of Cornwallis.”

Following are links to other episodes for Presidents Day or presidents’ birthdays.
Episode 304, 2-22-16 – George Washington, Walter Johnson, and the Rappahannock River.
Episode 355, 2-13-17 – Abraham Lincoln’s roots in the Shenandoah Valley.


The episode—the audio, extra information, or sources—may help with the following Virginia Standards of Learning (SOLs).

2013 Music SOLs

SOLs at various grade levels that call for “examining the relationship of music to the other fine arts and other fields of knowledge.”

2010 English SOLs

Reading Theme
8.4, 9.3, 10.3, 11.3, and 12.3 – knowledge of word origins, analogies, and figurative language to extend vocabulary development within authentic texts.

2010 Science SOLs

Grades K-6 Earth Resources Theme
4.9 – Va. natural resources, including watersheds, water resources, and organisms.

2015 Social Studies SOLs

Virginia Studies Course
VS.1 – impact of geographic features on people, places, and events in Virginia history.

United States History to 1865 Course
USI.2 – major land and water features of North America, including their importance in history.

Virginia and United States History Course
VUS.7 – knowledge of the Civil War and Reconstruction eras.

Virginia’s SOLs are available from the Virginia Department of Education, online at

Following are links to Water Radio episodes (various topics) designed especially for certain K-12 grade levels.
Episode 250, 1-26-15 – on boiling, for kindergarten through 3rd grade.
Episode 255, 3-2-15 – on density, for 5th and 6th grade.
Episode 282, 9-21-15 – on living vs. non-living, for kindergarten.
Episode 309, 3-28-16 – on temperature regulation in animals, for kindergarten through 12th grade.
Episode 333, 9-12-16 – on dissolved gases, especially dissolved oxygen in aquatic habitats, for 5th grade.
Episode 403, 1-15-18 – on freezing and ice, for kindergarten through 3rd grade.
Episode 404, 1-22-18 – on ice on ponds and lakes, for 4th through 8th grade.
Episode 406, 2-5-18 – on ice on rivers, for middle school.
Episode 407, 2-12-18 – on snow chemistry and physics, for high school.